Until I saw Chuck's post...I hadn't remembered that today is the anniversary of the day that the Earth lost a great guy. Heaven's gain...our loss. So, a few minutes remembrance of Carlton Candler.
I believe the first time I met Carlton was after a play at Lynchburg College. And then I think that he worked at Hip Pocket with my sister Denise. Not 100% sure, I guess I was in the midst of high school crap. I really got to KNOW Carlton years later when he was rooming with Denise in Richmond. Carlton was one of those people who make an indelible mark on your heart. He laughed SO loud, it was just contagious. He had strong opinions about most everything - but accepted that your view could be different.
I think that Carlton was one of the first of my sister's friends who treated me as more than just a kid sister. He listened when I talked. He cared about me as a person, not just an extension of a sibling. And that meant more to me than he can ever know. I was goofy and awkward. My older sisters were popular and cool. When they were in the same room, I usually faded into the background - a shy bookworm. But Carlton was different, he asked me questions about ME. When I grow up I want to be just like him.
As the years passed we found we had a lot of things in common - we loved food, travel, people, cultures, family, tolerance...we both hated ignorance and injustice. He made me fall in love with New York City and encouraged me to move there. Sometimes he would call just to say hi while he was walking across Central Park. I found out after he was gone that he did that with a lot of people. But instead of feeling like just one of a crowd...that made me feel like part of club. People who Carlton Cared About. Because it never felt superficial - when you were with Carlton (in person, phone, email or just thought) - you were the most important thing in the world to him.
4 years ago. I was right where I am now...on the computer. I heard the phone ring and heard Mom talking to Denise. I could tell that it was bad news. I could tell that she was upset. I stopped doing whatever it was and went immediately to my email. I knew that whatever was going on, Denise was going to need the support of her friends. My assumption was that Denise's father-in-law had passed. I started an email and had opened my contact list to include our closest friends when Mom ended the phone call.
I had just clicked on Carlton's name when she sat down. Then she said the strangest thing. "Chris, Carlton died." I sat there with my fingers on the keyboard, not moving. I couldn't move, couldn't think. It was so unreal. It just didn't seem possible. Sometimes it still doesn't. I've never been able to bring myself to delete him from my email contact list. Probably never will. But now seeing it brings a small smile to my face.
I would like to think that Carlton would be proud of the person I'm becoming. I still hate ignorance and injustice - I've tried to become more patient though. When I have snarky comments...I try hard to "keep them in my head". I still love different foods and cultures and learning about new people and places. I want to embrace life like he did. And most of all - when I'm with another person, I want to remember to treat that person as the most important person in the world.
And even though I haven't moved there - I do still love New York City.
But I miss one of the best things that NYC ever had...Carlton Candler. Thanks for being one of the best parts of my life.