To An Absent Friend

We are part of The Trust Project

If there is one thing in life I will never get used to is the news of someone who died. Today I found out a friend of mine who I have known for several years through my gym had passed away suddenly. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I will miss seeing my friend Jimmy.

After reading the first paragraph you must be thinking this is going to be a morbid column or an obituary of someone this writer knew, but its not going to be a sad story but I hope it will be uplifting.

Jimmy was a person filled with passions. He had a wonderful spirit and outlook in life. He truly understood and lived by the motto of “Carpe Diem,” which is a Latin term from the poet Horace which means “Seize the Day.” I wish I could recite and explain the full line in the poem that the phrase originated from but my Latin knowledge isn’t that great. I would need my high school latin teacher Mr. Mitchell to do this. Mitch would explain it with greater knowledge and recite the line with a lot more enthusiasm than I ever could.

Carpe Diem is a phrase we throw around a lot in life to try to excite passion in something or someone. My friend Jimmy lived it. He embodied it.

He started every day the same way. He would run seven miles with a friend in the streets of Bay Ridge Brooklyn. I think I ran six miles once in my entire life. He did it seven days a week even in his late 60’s.

Jimmy loved running. It was one of his many passions in life. Jimmy completed numerous marathons including the famous Boston and New York marathons. He loved to tell running stories. Numerous times he will tell me stories about Bill Rogers who won the Boston and New York marathons several times each.

Jimmy’s other passions in life were family, religion, reading, music and dancing to name a few. Almost every time I saw Jimmy he had at least one newspaper in his hand. He would constantly listen to 1010 WINS AM radio and call me up at work and give me an update on what was happening in the world. Other times he would call me up from home and play for me some Irish or 1950’s rock and roll music. Sometimes he would just call me up and just see how I was doing.

Whenever he heard music he got very excited and boy did he love to dance. Jimmy never met a dance floor he didn’t like. I heard a story yesterday from a good friend of Jimmy’s who told me Jimmy once showed him a book about the television show American Bandstand which was hosted by Dick Clark. In the book was a picture showing a young man dancing on the show. You guess it. It was Jimmy. He was a fill in dancer sometimes on the show.

Jimmy’s real passion in life was people. He loved talking to people and meeting new people. I always told Jimmy that he missed his calling in life and that he should of been in public relations. He had a wonderful memory and would always inform you on what someone else was up too.

Come the holidays he would hand write several hundred holiday cards wishing his friends well. He would remember the names of hundreds of people. He could tell what their locker number was, what they did for a living, name of their spouse, theirs kids etc. He was always filled with information and happenings of the day. If you didn’t know the person he was talking too he would introduce you and give that person a short bio about you.

Everyone knew Jimmy. He made sure he talked to everyone. I truly believe the favorite thing he like to do in life was to have a conversation with someone, find out their passion in life and try to encourage them to do a better job at it.

We live in a time where things are rapidly changing and the world of technology let us communicate by text messages and e-mails rather than call someone or meet up in person. You can’t replace a one to one conversation with someone you care about. Its the greatest form of communication we have and we must embrace it.

The lesson here is simple. Enjoy every day of your life and do the things that you love to do as much as possible like Jimmy did with running and talking to his friends.

In closing Jimmy I’m toasting you with your favorite beverage a glass of water. Thank for taking the time to share your passions and love of life with everyone you met. Anyone who had the opportunity to meet you and get to know you was blessed. Thanks for touching so many lives including mine. Take care my friend you will be missed.


Peter Gerken

Gerken is a Westchester County native and has published previously with The Patent Trader and the Bronxville Review Press. While attending Boston College he was the sports editor of the university’s newspaper, The Heights, and served as a staff writer for the Boston College sports publication Eagle Action. He can be reached at

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.