It was an utter shock. It always is when you hear of someone passing away. No matter if they suffered a long illness or if it was a sudden event. Disbelief is always first. The reality, when it does finally come, always hits hard. The loss.
I'd never met Thom in person. But, that's not a prerequisite for feeling a grave loss. He was a member of my small, intimate on-line writing group. He was the professor. Not only a Professor of Psychology in the same state system I graduated from, but also a fellow to all of us writers.
He had a fatherly presence. Modest, insightful and wise. But with a playful nonjudgmental side too. Unless it came to cheating, which he didn't tolerate. Because he was a man of integrity and fortitude. Navigating through life with a disability, but never allowing it to disable him.
I always wanted to be in his class, sitting at a desk soaking up his wisdom and life experiences. It wasn't until his untimely passing that I realized, I'd been a student of his all along. Watching and learning from his example.
Rest in peace Professor Brown.