For hosts of reasons, I do not text. I receive them, check them, and usually delete them. I also rarely have my cell with me, as it spends most of the time in the car or in the charger. As a consequence, I check overnight messages in the morning. Such was the case on Thursday morning November the 11th.
I did not even get around to looking at the screen until about 8:30, only to find prompters indicating two messages. The effect of the short words on the screen were nothing less than devastating.
I had left the Wood River office of my friend Lance Mallon that afternoon with the knowledge that he was in Anderson Hospital, suffering from what was thought to be pneumonia. It was expected that a transfer to Barnes in St. Louis would result in a full recovery. Such was not his fate.
The first message, coming in at 2:30 a.m. relayed that Lance was now in ICU, and not expected to make it through the night. It proved to be prophetic. The second text followed a short 30 minutes later. Simple. To the point. Brutal in its impact. "Lance is gone."
Lance Mallon was only 61 years old when he died, leaving behind a wife and four children, along with a host of friends, colleagues and clients to mourn his passing. Lance was a good lawyer, but that's not uncommon in Madison County. Much more importantly, he was a multi - talented artist with paintbrush or camera, a generous and fair employer and a good and loyal friend, rare qualities indeed at any time, at any place.
Over the past 10 years or so, we worked together on many, many cases - some successful, some a little less so. Always, he provided invaluable insight and analysis, constant support and encouragement. In the end, we would make sometimes what he would term "beer money," sometimes the fees would generate martinis - never shaken or stirred, but always on the rocks. In any case, the work was most pleasant and rewarding. But it is not just professionally that I shall miss my friend, but also as a member of his nurtured journalistic creation, "The Bar Rag" - the on-line publication of the Madison County Bar Association.
It is difficult to remember a time when Lance was not at the Bar meetings with a camera, snapping candid or posed, willing or unwilling shots of lawyers at play. These would be sent out to the members in various forms, but the best was the "Bar Rag."
A few years ago, I joined the staff as the movie reviewer. The only perk the staff received was the occasional meal, usually as a research tool for food critic Kim Kirn. It was here that I got to know the better side of Lance, the connoisseur of good food and wine, the lover of spirited debate and Irish whiskey.
I shall miss him, the fan of polar bears, the Civil War, and alas, the Cubs, a remnant of his Chicago upbringing. As I try to make some sense of his untimely death, I come back to the long time motto of the Bar Rag, the title of today's piece.
It is Latin, meaning "Always wear Underwear," just like your mother told you. It warns the unwise and unprepared of the unpredictability of life, and the need to be ready, as you never know what comes forth at end of the day. While births can be happily predictable, death is often times a cruel and unscheduled visitor.
We literally do not know what will be the final scene of our life's drama, so perhaps the moral is to live each day like it is the last, to cherish those around us with the recognition that tomorrow is promised to no one. Lance Mallon will be remembered not only for the cases won but for the love given and received in a decidedly influential if tragically short lifetime.
We raised a glass to toast his memory at the Bar meetings this week, coupled with tales of a life well and truly lived, with memories forever imparted. We can only hope to learn the lesson of life's capricious nature, the need to live now and not to wait for the "better" chance in the future, as fate sometimes is very cruel and withholding.
We must be bold, unafraid and live in the present, as that is the only true guarantee. Sleep in peace, my friend.