With Tears in My Eyes and Grief in My HeartNovember 17, 2009
Tonight, I received word that one of my good friends passed away at the far too young age of 44. He had a heart attack in the grocery store, and was taken from us.
David McClendon was my first journalism professor in college. He also gave me my first and last collegiate “F.” I misspelled the name of a politician in an article I wrote for his class, and he had warned us about that on day one. As he handed back that article, I was so disappointed in myself. How could I be a journalist if I missed the basics? David saw this in my eyes, and let me rewrite it. That was the first of many times he would provide me with much needed encouragement and support.
I stayed in touch with David after I left his class. I even took a photo of him for an article that was being written about him in the college newspaper. As I neared graduation, I was looking into a job opening at the newspaper where he worked. I emailed him, asking if I could pick his brain and get some advice. Of course, he said yes.
We went into New Haven, and he introduced me to Thai food. We chatted about life and what I wanted out of my career. He was happy to hear that I might be joining the paper, and was one of the first people to congratulate me when I started working there a week out of school.
David looked out for me at the newspaper. He was the city editor, and I was a journalist disguised as a web producer. He gave me stories as often as he could, pushing me to get out there and write. When he left the paper to head to Michigan, I was so bummed. I knew that no one would look out for me like he did.
We stayed in touch as he moved on to Michigan, working at a paper there. We spoke often on the phone, and he never stopped encouraging me. When my father died in 2007, he called, texted or emailed me every few days to see how I was doing. Regardless of what was going on in his life, he always took time out to see how I was.
I left the newspaper for a job at my college, and David was all for it. Time wore on, and he relocated to Chicago.
This past March, he was hospitalized after being hit hard by what was later diagnosed as sarcoidosis. It ravaged his body, and knocked him for a loop. He left Chicago, going home to New Jersey to be with his parents. He told me he was excited to be with them, but more excited to kick the disease’s ass.
I got preoccupied with my own life as the wedding neared, but we still managed to stay in touch. His blog was on my RSS feed, so I read each new post with relief at his seemingly good progress.
Sunday night I was talking to him online, telling him about this blog I had started. He was so happy, and said he was looking forward to seeing where I took it. I had to go, but told him that I really wanted to see him soon. We agreed to catch up next week and try to plan something.
The next day (Monday, yesterday), he was gone.
I am so grateful to have had David in my life. As a teacher, a mentor, a colleague, but most importantly as a friend. I will miss him more than I can express. Everyone who knew him is mourning a great loss right now, one that will be felt in our hearts forever. Here is another beautiful tribute to this incredible man.
Thank you, David, for your guidance and support. I know you will always be looking out for me, and that now I have another guardian angel.
Here are the last words he sent to me two days ago:
Sunday, November 15, 2009, 9:18 PM — David: Rock on, Nancy. Rock on.
I’ll do my best, my friend.