Goodbye, Old Friend

Back in January, I wrote about a friend of mine battling cancer. This was my friend, Hugo, who passed away just yesterday having lost the struggle. As sad as I am about losing a good friend, I am doubly sad for being thousands of miles away, in Tokyo, unable to fly home for his service.

Hugo was part of a group of guys with which I’d kept in touch since high school (Miami Senior High, Class of 1977). We were the self-proclaimed “Beer Club” whose purpose was self-evident. In spite of our simple charter, for some reason, the group kept in touch. Most remained in Miami. Hugo moved up to Melbourne, FL where he worked at NASA. I moved out to the West coast. Whenever I visited Miami, however, my friend Oscar would find an excuse for a party and the Beer Club would convene in his back yard to smoke cigars, play dominoes and, of course, drink beers.

Over the course of 32 years, we’ve buried lots of parents, survived a few divorces and had the occasional health scare but Hugo is the first of us to die, way too early.

There are many characters in the club. All of us are successful in our fields. All of us are good, loyal, friends who would do anything to help the others. Hugo, however, stood out. Of all of us, he was unquestionably the gentlest, nicest, guy in the group. I don’t remember him every saying anything bad about anyone. He was a loyal husband, considerate of his wife. He was a devoted father to his only child. He was respectful and kind to our spouses, children and families.

Of all of us, he was least deserving of this fate.

Goodbye, Hugo. I am a better person for having known you. Today, I drank an extra beer or three in your memory.