I drove past a cemetery in Mint Hill, NC last week. The cemetery is just around the block from where I went to high school. Within that cemetery lies Jeff Sebastian. I thought about Jeff, and realized that it had been 25 years since he had left this place. 25 years. Where did it all go…
Jeff had joined my high school’s drama department about the same time I did, in my sophmore year. Jeff was a year older than me, and was popular within the class. We knew that Jeff had dealt with issues in his past, as he told us about them one day during class. We acted in a couple of plays together, and during my junior year, Jeff was one of the many classmates that took part in a comedy TV show that I put together for local TV. I spent way too long in putting that first show together. My whole junior year, in fact. In retrospect, I should have been more organized, more open to the input of others, and done more shows. But the shows we did do were good, and ultimately, it’s the work you do that one leaves behind. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that.
Jeff had moved to a school in South Carolina before Christmas of 1989. In April in 1990, my friend called me to say that Jeff had died in a car accident. At Jeff’s wake and funeral, none of us knew how to act, or respond. We were all teenagers, dealing with something that we had not planned on dealing with. My upbringing made me deal with it all in a more internal way. I just got on with things, although it was a long time before I really dealt with it in a real way.
By the end of the school year, our first show was finally ready to go. I also knew how I wanted it to end, with a sketch that Jeff had done early in our filming. When I went to edit the tape, I realized that I had a problem. The school’s video camera that we’d used at the time was old, and had a weak signal. You could play the video, but the signal was too weak to be copied to the show’s master tape. After some thinking, I decided to use my then-new video camera to video my TV as I played Jeff’s original tape. I even included shots of a TV channel being changed, so it looked like it was a planned part of the show. It wasn’t, but there was no way that the show would not run without Jeff. Again, I just put my head down, and got on with it, and made sure that Jeff was with us, again.
25 years. Six years longer than Jeff was alive. In retrospect, I’m not sure how well I knew Jeff. He was a good guy, but there was more to Jeff than I ever had the chance to know. I understand that better now, all these years on. All of that being said, I still miss him, and the life that he never got to experience. In these internet-heavy days, it has been said that if your name is not online, people aren’t sure if you exist, or ever did exist. Consider this an online post about someone who left this place all too soon, but was not forgotten by those that knew him.
Safe travels, Jeff. Wherever you are.
April 30, 2015