Relationships are weird, in ways I often struggle to put on paper. People enter our lives, leave our lives. One moment they’re regular presencesâ€”lunch companions, confidants, joke exchangers. The next moment, they’re gone. You’ve changed jobs. Or moved desks. You relocate. Gradually, they fade from our memories.
When I worked at The Tennessean, I started out in the features department. I sat at a desk … had a gray phone and a black pen holder … was surrounded by a group of peers with whom I shared the most personal intricacies of my life. I told Linda Layne and Sheila Jones every detail of my relationship with my then-girlfriend. Gloria Ballard had me watch her house. Clark Parsons and Alan Bostock tried teaching me how to be cool (they failed). Sylvia Slaughter once fell over in her bathtub and called me to lift her out. She was completely naked, which mattered not. Sylvia needed help, and she could count on meâ€”no judgments, no qualms. Literally, we all spent at least 260 days together in 1995â€”significantly more time than I allotted to my family or closest friends. Yet, with rare exception, those peers have all vanished from my thoughts, brought back only at times like this, when I’m up late and feeling reflective. Otherwise, they’re barely memories. That I still recall their names is a semi-miracle.
I only bring this up because, earlier tonight, a former Sports Illustrated colleague told me about the recent death of Delia Donovan. And now I sit here, heartbroken.
Delia worked in Sports Illustrated‘s business office when I started at the magazine back in 1996, yet for some reason we sat in adjacent squares. She was, without exaggeration, one of the kindest, most decent human beings I have ever met. Delia spoke in very soft tones, but she wasn’t shy. She always asked questionsâ€”what was I working on? Where would I be going? How was I holding up? She possessed one of the most gentle, kind faces I’ve ever laid eyes on. Delia radiated decency. She was a good person; a pure person; someone I looked forward to seeing.
Sadly, once I left SI in 2002, Delia and I lost contact. She gradually slipped my mind, and I hadn’t thought of her in years. Now, however, I’m thinking of her. And I’m devastated.
She was a treasure.