I have only a small number of people who knew me when I was young, met me during very formative years, and remain close and active in my life still today. I treasure these friendships, as they bridge the gap between one era of my life and the next, and because the number of people who knew you when you were young is finite. This week I lost one of those very special friends, and the suddenness of this loss and the tragic way in which it occurred has been almost impossible to even process.
I met Jared in college, when I was 19. He was a popular guy who threw a lot of parties and always seemed to be holding court everywhere he went, making people laugh with his crazy stories, dirty jokes, and relentless teasing. I was flattered when, one day, he asked me if I’d like to see a Sunday matinee play with him that he had an extra ticket for; I didn’t know him well and he certainly had his choice of friends he could invite to join him. I wasn’t sure whether it was a date or not though until the end when he asked me if I’d be interested in going out with him again some time. I told him I really liked him and was interested in being his friend and hoped he was interested in being my friend, too. This is not a line most guys traditionally take very gracefully, but Jared was not most guys. He smiled and said, “I AM interested in being your friend!” And he meant it, and we became the best of friends for many, many years.
To be in Jared’s orbit, whether for an evening or for decades, was something else, and I feel safe saying that everyone who ever met him knew they’d never met anyone like him before and would likely never again. He was a real life Dean Moriarty — larger than life, always up for anything and everything, and devoted almost as much to adventure as he was to his family, his friends, and his passion for acting. To have Jared as a close friend was a gift. He always showed up (in fact, that’s him in the picture of this post, in back of me and Drew); he never forgot a birthday (and didn’t need Facebook to remind him); he would get up at the crack of dawn to drive me to the airport; he was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known, and he always sent postcards from his many travels (that’s my collection from him in the picture above).
He had a physical presence that could be intimidating at times — an upper body like a Spanish bull and a big, booming foghorn voice. But underneath, he had the soul of a teddybear, one of the kindest hearts, and a surprising fragility that all helped give him the impressive emotional range he employed as a busy working actor.
He was on his way to shoot a commercial a few hours from home when he lost control of his car on a patch of ice. He hung on for two weeks, and we thought he was going to make it. He was off the ventilator, out of the coma, eating and talking. But it was not meant to be, and when the hospital staff failed to stop the bleeding of a previously undetected ulcer Tuesday morning, he died on his way to the OR for emergency surgery.
He’s off on another adventure now, I tell myself — causing a ruckus for sure, and finding all the best places to go and things to do before the rest of us get there. Send a postcard if you can, Jared. I’m going to miss you so much.