Monday, March 21, 2005

Rest in Peace

Amongst all of my good news, some very sad news also came my way this week. Two wonderful men I know died. Both are about the same age as me.

Damon was a friend of mine in college and a composer. I spent many hours in practice rooms with him at Oberlin talking about how to write for the voice. He wrote for my voice in particular, and he used my advice to do it. It was a collaborative relationship, but we were also friends. My friend Annie and I just really dug him, and we spent a lot of time hanging out with him outside of our musical creating. He had some dark times, but the last time I saw him, he was doing really well, working with a relative of Bartok on some of Bartok's pieces, deeply in love, happy as I'd ever seem him, and living in Brooklyn. Annie was the one who e-mailed me to tell me had died. I don't have many details at all, except that he died about a year ago. I hate that he isn't in this world anymore, that I won't see him, that he won't be composing any more music. I'm very glad I saw him at that reunion.

With Damon at our last Oberlin reunion in 2001.

Kipchoge is someone I knew less well, but he made such an impression. He was my age, but he was a professor. I think the first time I met him was at a campus-wide gathering of some sort where we were talking about issues of social justice in the classroom. It was in the Indiana Memorial Union. My friend Rebecca and I went, and he sat at our table. I remember my table better than I remember the title or point of the gathering. Kipchoge was smart yet down to earth, and from our time at that table that day, I could tell he was a good soul, and he was going to do good things in the world. Later, I found out that he did spoken word, an art form which is one of my favorites. I invited him to the spoken word tribe on He's just someone who was always around. I taught on the third floor of the School of Education, and so did he, so he was just around a lot, and we always chatted... because we just got along really well. My favorite memory of him was the time we were both grabbing really late lunches at Dagwood's Sandwich Shop on 10th Street near the School of Education. We were both ordering food to go, but we decided to sit down together to eat. I learned he had a son who lived somewhere else. I learned that he had actually gone to high school in Mildenhall in England because he was an Air Force brat. My father was actually stationed at RAF Lakenheath, too, so I'd been there. I never expected him to have been there. What a small world. What I know about his death is that on Thursday, he checked himself into the hospital, then he was released that night. He died on Friday of natural (yet unexpected) causes.

Kipchoge at a department Christmas party at the end of 2003.

Anyway, these were both wonderful men, and it was too early. Way too early. But I'm glad they lived, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to know them both.