The other night, I sat for over an hour and got caught up on the life of my daughter's Godfather's son. I hadn't seen him since he was a toddler, so I had about 20 years of his life to get filled in on.
Sadly, it took the young man's death to present this opportunity.
Jacob Lank was 22 years old, handsome, and by the accounts of his friends who shared stories of him Tuesday night at the RG/GR Harris Funeral Home in Livonia, very mischievous and a prankster.
But he was also fiercely loyal, a wonderful big brother and smart.
He had great character, his friends said. One called Jacob "brave."
His little sister, Maddy, talked of how Jacob---Jake, really---and she made up a Leprechaun named George and how Maddy, as a youngster, would write George letters. And George would write back, to her amazement. He even left her some lucky charms, which she said she still carries with her to this day.
Turns out the letter writer was Jake, posing as George the Leprechaun. This went on for some time before Maddy caught on.
But this was no prank. This was a big brother lovingly feeding the fantasies of his little sister, in a harmless but endearing way.
Jake Lank just turned 22 on March 8, about two weeks before a single car accident took his life.
I didn't know him beyond his pre-school years, but by the time the tributes were finished Tuesday night, I felt two sensations: that I felt I had known Jake all along, from his days as a toddler; and that I REALLY wish I had been in his company as he turned from teen to young adult.
I said as much to his dad, Mike Lank---one of my best friends.
"God, I wish I knew that kid," I told Mike.
"So do I," he said.
I got Mike's meaning.
Before the tributes, Mike took to the podium and said that, as parents, there's a side of your children that you really don't know---the side his or her friends see.
So when Mike said, "So do I," he meant that he wished he had known the side of Jake that his friends had spent recalling in the days between the accident and the visitation Tuesday.
Jake was the oldest of five kids in the Lank family. The three next-youngest siblings each spoke of how awesome of a big brother Jake was.
There were tears, of course. But there were also a lot of laughs---far more than the tears, actually.
A funeral home filled with young people is a gut-wrenching scene, because it's a sure sign that the deceased was equally as young.
But it was those young people---over an hour's worth---who painted the picture and filled in the gaps about Jake Lank.
By the end of the evening I was glad that they were there, after all.
I now feel like I know Jake Lank, albeit too late.
Like Mike said in front of the crowd, "This sucks."
But I'm glad that little toddler turned out to be such a great kid.
So, at least there's that.
Note: Jake was an organ donor and already, Mike said, the donated organs are saving the lives of others, including a young teen who would have died without it. Very cool.