There’s a certain kinship with my childhood friends that can not be replaced by any other experience. Two weeks ago, my friend Jarlath Patrick Macbeth O’Neil-Dunne passed away suddenly. His death has hit me hard.

Jarlath is the first of my inner circle of childhood friends who died. For the last two weeks, I’ve had a rush of emotions that have come in waves. Growing up, I felt so alone and scared that I would always be alone. Despite being surrounded by friends and included in many things, every day was a constant battle where my brain told me it wasn’t real. At Jarlath’s service, his brother shared something I did not know about him. He struggled with these feelings as a child as well.

Jarlath, you weren’t alone.

It’s been two weeks since you’ve passed, ten days since I found out, and one day since your service. I miss you, my friend. I could not have known how much you’ve meant to me and how much I appreciated our friendship. I never got to tell you how much your friendship meant to me.

I’m so grateful for how you approached your life and loved everyone around you. I’m so sorry it was a struggle for you as a kid to make friends. I had no idea that you and I shared so many experiences of feeling out of place and finding it difficult to feel friendship with others. I’m so very grateful this changed for you in college, in the Marine Corps, and your life as a professor. But mostly, I’m grateful this changed for you once you became a dad.

Jarlath, I want you to know that you were my friend. You were not alone. I loved being your friend. I’ve been so lucky to have you as a friend. Your friendship has been important to me as a kid and as an adult. I’m grateful we were able to reconnect these last few years.

I remember fondly raiding your parents' closet for clothes and spending too much time rehearsing our lip sync entry as a Jackson 5. I remember your dance moves and your energy so fondly. I enjoyed being at your house and talking about making a movie, but instead, we just spent hours making each other laugh while acting out all the different scenes that should be in the movie. I loved being on the bus with you to our track meets, being your teammate, and watching you grow as a runner.

Your friendship was and has always been important to me, even when we were separated by time and distance. When my wife Sally and I first talked about moving to Vermont, I messaged you the next day. You were the first person I wanted to talk to, and as excited as I was about moving to Vermont, I was more excited to catch up with you. We spoke for 90 minutes just a few days later, and each time we’ve spoken since then, it’s been so joyful. I’m so grateful we were able to reconnect and continue our friendship these last few years.

Though we haven’t been close over the years, you were the one person who truly moved me from afar by seeing your exploits, thoughtful posts, and pictures on social media. Sally, who you would have loved, jokingly wondered why I often spoke of you. I did. It was not for your athletic or professional feats but because I witnessed your unbridled joy for life and being a dad. Your energy was contagious back then as I learned from others, it continued to be throughout your life. You were so loved. I love you, my friend.

Feeling a sense of camaraderie does not come easy to me, and there are still times when I feel like I did as a kid. But the most unexpected thing happened after hearing that Jarlath had passed.

Another friend from my childhood, Dan, reached out to let me know. Not through social media, not through a tag, and not through a DM. He found my email address and sent me a message. I know he did this because he is my friend. I know how to see and feel this in a way I wish I could have when I was a kid. At Jarlath’s service, there were more friends, too: Lee and Beth. Though we all desperately wanted to hug Jarlath, we got the second-best thing… we hugged each other. We let each other know we were glad to see each other. And I know that’s what Jarlath would have wanted most for us. That was the magic power Jarlath had.

Jarlath was the epitome of living a great life. Everything he did was beyond what could be expected. Everything he touched left a residue of joy, laughter, kindness, and excellence. Jarlath was a big deal, but you would have never known it. He was humble, kind, funny, and so incredibly talented. The service was beautiful and emotional, filled with love, grief, and laughter. He was admired and loved by his family, friends, community, students, colleagues, and all Vermonters. Jarlath lived a good life!

Jarlath was my friend. I miss him dearly.