When a Close Friend Dies

Whitney Houston died in 2012. So did Marvin Hamlisch and Mike Wallace and Donna Summer and Andy Griffith and Davy Jones and Sally Ride and Neil Armstrong and Sun Myung Moon, and the man who invented the first wireless remote control and the doctor who performed the first successful kidney transplant.

And so did my friend Sid.

Anderson Cooper paid homage to the celebrities who died, assuring that we would carry their names and the memory of their artistic or political contributions into the coming year and beyond. Charles Osgood "tipped his hat" to them on his Sunday morning show. The entertainment industry will salute them with a video montage at the Golden Globes and again at the Oscars. No such fanfare will immortalize my friend, Sid, a man as deserving of a tear-soaked sendoff as any celebrity.

Sid was a brilliant attorney. He could have become exceedingly wealthy had he chosen to go the route of the corporate mogul. Instead he dedicated his life to his quest for fair treatment of the working class. One achieves neither fame nor fortune bolstering the underdog, but to the police and firefighters and teachers whom he served, Sid was as much a hero as Rocky Balboa whose likeness, cast in stone will stand at the Philadelphia Art Museum for God knows how long. As far as I know no one is erecting a statue of Sid at the courthouse. And Sid was non-fiction.

To his wife, children, and grandchildren he was the world, a steady hand in times of adversity and a proud and loving cheerleader when life was good. To his friends, he was a sounding board, a confidant and a jokester, a triad of qualities that attracted us to him like an iPhone attracts toddlers these days. He was all the good apps rolled into one.

At no time is our celebrity-worshiping culture more on display than after a big name dies. The ballyhoo that surrounded Whitney Houston's death was mind-boggling. I do not begrudge celebrities the pageantry that accompanies their passing. Their fans are genuinely upset. But my husband and I were fans of Sid's and we would like attention to be paid.

Unlike family, which is thrust upon us, we choose our friends. They are the ones we trust with the grievances we harbor about our families. With them we can admit to the insecurities we'd rather our children not see. Old friends share our youth with us. Later they help us weather the turbulence of parenthood. And much later still, if we are lucky, they are there by our sides as we suffer the indignities of decrepitude. When a dear friend passes he takes a little piece of each of his friends with him.

Sid took a little chunk out of each of us who loved him. After we bid him a final farewell, after the crowd dispersed and his grieving wife, our beloved friend Janice, sent us on our way, we mourned for Sid and for the good he had yet to bring to the world and to his family. And we mourned for the piece of our youth we had lost.

The death of a child is an unnatural and unfathomable tragedy. The death of an elderly parent is part of the order of the universe. But it is the loss of a close friend that immediately triggers thoughts of our own mortality. Sid was the first of our close circle of friends to pass. Against our wills we have reached an age when any one of us could be next.

To all the Sids who passed away this past year, the friends who enriched our lives with their wisdom or humor or thoughtfulness, the friends who knew us better than we knew ourselves, the friends who were there for us when desertion would have been an easier option, to all the millions of friends whose names will not appear on a Jumbotron at the Oscars or Superbowl, I tip my hat to you. Rest in peace.