I've been very, very lucky in my life that I have never lost a loved one. I have attended the wake of a friend's mother whom I had never met. I have never been to a funeral. I have been around loved ones dealing with great loss, and dealt with the guilt of really disliking a girl named Diana who was killed in a terrible car accident in high school.
I found out a few minutes ago, via an outpouring of shocked, dismayed, but above all loving Facebook status messages that a former speech competitor of mine, Curt Byars, died yesterday suddenly, terribly, and it seems for no logical reason.On a personal level, I'm feeling a muted sense of shock at the fact that someone I knew, a "real person" if you'll pardon the awfulness of that concept, a young, talented, crazy smart person has passed away. I'm incredibly saddened on behalf of his friends and family, his former teammates, and those who did know him well. I'm terrified on behalf of mortals, that one moment you can be going about your life, perhaps having a drink at a local bar, and the next moment be found in a stranger's burning car, dead. I'm sick to my stomach imagining what, if anything, he felt or saw in his final moments on this earth. And I'm struggling to find adequate words to describe the impact he had on my life, despite me being peripheral at best in his.
I won't pretend that I knew him well--we weren't even Facebook friends, the easiest place to be friends. We competed against each other in many speech events, we chatted occasionally outside of rounds, during extemp prep, and maybe a few times during other periods of down time during a tournament. He was an inspiration to everyone on the speech circuit, not just within the Illinois schools or even District 5, but on a national level. He was extremely talented as an interp-er, public address-er, and limited prep-er, which meant more to me as a competitor than the awards he won. He was an inspiration in working hard, doing your research, and being passionate about your events. Despite being from The High and Mighty Bradley University, he was approachable, personable. He took the time to talk to other competitors, like myself, even if we weren't major talent or a force to be reckoned with. He was funny, he was nice. He broke his foot once during a drunken party episode and lied about it to my teammates, earning him a secret nickname.
He was a bright young man with a lot of potential, any idiot on the street would have known that, and the speech community, as well as other communities at large, are now weakened by his loss. Magneto, it's clear you will be missed dearly.