I never told him
I have a hard time explaining to those who didn't know him why an entire community was rendered utterly inconsolable by his sudden death. Who was he to me? A professor? An advisor? A mentor? A friend? A best friend? Yes, but that doesn't even begin to explain why I feel empty inside yet full to bursting with pain and sadness.
He was the most amazing person I've ever met, brilliant, with a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor. He was 13 years older than me, but he never talked down to me, always treated me like an equal. We were friends while I was his student, and that friendship only grew as time passed. There wasn't a day that went by when he was alive that I didn't think of him, or have something remind me of him, or want to write him an email or send him a text. When we ended up in the same town, which was at least every other month, we were inseparable, generally moving from lunch to coffee to dinner to a concert to drinks without ever stopping our conversation. I fully expected that friendship to last a lifetime.
It may be obvious from the details above, but I was in love with him. I kept quiet about my feelings, at first out of propriety while I was a student at the college where he taught, and then out of fear that speaking up would damage the most important relationship in my life. I always thought that I had all the time in the world to tell him how I felt, and that someday it'd be the right moment. Someday we'd stop going on dates that weren't actually dates and just be together.
He passed away suddenly, of a freak illness he left untreated too long, just a couple of weeks after I had last seen him. He never returned the email I sent him telling him to rest and get better. I felt weird even sending that email, because I had only heard through the grapevine that he was sick. I was worried my actions were giving away my feelings. I think the whole world (except maybe him) knew, because in the past few days I've gotten phone calls and emails out of the blue to see how I'm doing.
Now, a big part of me wishes I had told him, even if it was inappropriate. I wonder if he knew, and I wonder what he felt in return. Now I'll never know.