Remembering Jay Featherson

Several days ago, I learned of the passing of a high school friend of mine: Jay Featherson. I’ve been sitting with this news for some time, unsure of what to do with it, how to really process it.

I shied away from social media, as it felt too… New? Insincere? I can’t seem to find the right words for it.

I knew Jay from our time in school together, at North Central High School in Indianapolis. Our paths crossed in my Junior and Senior years. He was always full of energy and enthusiasm, something I very much envied and craved as an incredibly introverted kid.

It was Jay’s urging and prodding that led me to try to audition for the Counterpoints – the school’s show choir. I got to meet a ton of incredibly amazing, talented folks… and I shudder to think how less rich my time at NC would have been, without the chance to have rubbed elbows with these incredible people.

Jay and I didn’t keep in touch after high school. And the extent of our interactions in the last two decades might very well have just been one of us, inviting the other to be friends on Facebook.

A lot of my thoughts lately have been around how we learn about, how we process grief, in an age so absolutely immersed in technology. Who do I know? Who did I know? What do we remember of one another?

Jay had this whole other life that I know very little about. And while I got a glimpse of that life through social media, that person is not someone I know. I knew the younger him, the energy-laden, sometimes spastic, oftentimes silly, always laughing, ready to sprint at a moment’s notice kid that I still see behind every photograph of him as an older man.

I am nearing an age where I am expecting and anticipating loss. Loved ones, older family members. But in my mind’s eye, I am still a high school kid. And all the people I know from that era are still, every one of them, high school kids. Jay included.

I struggled with the news of his passing a lot, these last few days. And I finally posted a comment on his account – an odd action in that he will never see it, and only those who remember him will.

Here’s what I shared:

Hi, Jay. Facebook tells me we are friends.

That’s a tough thing for me, because I know the younger you much better. We drove to North Central in the early hours together. We ran around Indianapolis together. I think that, without your urging and prompting, I would never have auditioned for the Counterpoints. And I never would have met so many other amazing singers and musicians and people, so many years ago.

I remember the younger you, and it dawns on me I never got to meet the older you. I never met the man you became. I see brief glimpses into that life, scanning your timeline, reading over your posts. Looking at your photographs, I think what everyone else here must also think: there are not nearly enough photographs here. You deserve more.

We are older now, and the loss of loved ones happens with greater frequency. I’m starting to expect the loss of parents, of older relatives, uncles and aunts. But not of us. Not yet.

We are still so very young. At least, that’s what I tell myself. And in my memories, you are still so very young.

I’m saddened I never got to meet the older you. But feel lucky for the time I got to spend with the younger you.

Social media does one thing very well. For you and me, and for all of us: it lessens distance. It reminds us of one another, despite how far away we are from one another.

Facebook reminds me we are friends.

A friend shared this photo on Facebook, and I’m just floored looking at it. Look at these young faces, these smiles.

I took very few photographs when I was younger, so I have precious few images of that time of my life. What an incredible thing to see this captured moment.

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