Larry Jordan

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In Memory of Chad Maples

Jul 27, 2022 by Larry Jordan, in Personal
My dear friend, Chad Maples, age 40, died in a horrible accident in 2020. Chad was a cool brother, a good friend, a loving son, and a wise mentor. He was all of those things to me, and he was a lot of other things to a lot of other people.

Years ago, Chad and Michelle (who later became his wife) worked with our daughter, Lauren. At the time, we worried a bit that our 16-year old hostess was hanging around after work with the older bartenders and waiters. ("...and it's a school night!!") We should not have worried. Everyone at the restaurant looked out for Lauren, especially Chad and Michelle, who have been members of our family for 20 years

Chad is the guy who first sparked Lauren's interest in psychology, which became her life's work after many years of college. Chad never graduated from college, and he was one of the smartest people I ever met. I seek out smart people (and I practically collect them) so that says a lot.

Last week, I told Chad that I was reading "These Wilds Beyond our Fences," by Bayo Akomolafe, a Nigerian man with a unique perspective and a poetic voice. Chad had questions: "Is his prose as good as Ta-Nehisi Coates?" Yes. "Is his poetry as good as Yusef Komunyakaa?" Who? You had to run fast to keep up with Chad.

Chad had an insatiable curiosity. For him, there were two types of subjects: 1) things that he knew a lot about and 2) things that he wanted to know a lot about.
When I would send Chad an email with an interesting idea, he might say, "Cool," or he might respond with a detailed critique, including a reading list and relevant links.

Often, he stayed up all night writing to me, then I stayed up all night writing back. Chad was like a balloon filled with ideas. If you poked him, everything rushed out. Sometimes, he dug so deep into a topic that he changed his mind between the last time we talked and the next time we talked. (Changing your mind is a good thing.)

We used to take long walks in the park, where we talked about our hopes and fears, our joys and frustrations. Chad connected at a deep level with a lot of people. Michelle went with us once, and she called our walks, the "Smart Guy Walk and Talk." Obviously, she named the walks after Chad, and I felt lucky just to tag along.

We talked a lot about politics and religion. A few years ago, I wasn't finding any answers in Western theology, and Chad pointed me toward the Eastern religions, which have influenced my spirituality and my worldview ever since.

We didn't always agree, of course. Usually, he took me up to a mountaintop, but sometimes, he took me down a dark alley. (I'm not being dramatic; I just wasn't always interested in his questions, and I wasn't always comfortable with his answers, but I always learned something.) We had enough respect and trust that we could be honest, and we could get past our differences. We knew each other too well to question each other's motives.

Chad was a warrior who enjoyed Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and he was a gentle soul who cared for his dying mother and doted on his young nieces, who he loved deeply. (I'm not a warrior. I spent my life making deals, so I'm more interested in finding common ground than in doing battle. Chad could get frustrated with me whenever I wasn't spoiling for a fight, not even a rational, respectful fight.)

He had a beautiful mind and a pure heart, and he thirsted for Truth with a capital T. You might be imagining a larger-than life figure, but Chad was very reserved. Did you ever meet everyone except the shy guy in the corner who spent all evening engaged in a quiet conversation? That was Chad. You should have met him.

Chad's depth and fluidity and intensity were a bit overwhelming, as was his warrior spirit, and a few times, I had to crash in a chair and pop a Xanax and take a break. Once, I told Lauren, "Chad is a lot of work!" "Yes, he is," she said, "and he's totally worth it." That is Truth with a capital T, right there. I never put more into a friendship, and I never got more out of one. In the end, that may be the greatest lesson that Chad taught me. It's worth it.

I know that Chad touched a lot of people and that many of us feel like we should (no, that we must) talk and write and cry and laugh about him. We all miss him so. There is a lot of suffering in our world, but today, I celebrate my brother, my friend, my mentor, my son, who was such a bright spot, a shooting star, in my life. We could all be a little more like Chad, and we should all have friends like Chad.

I'm truly blessed to have known and loved him.