The pain isn’t felt until it hits close to you.
My friend, Anthony Causi, passed away on Easter Sunday from the Coronavirus. Anthony and I are the same age. We’re both Italian, from New York, and, without knowing each other at the time, we both decided in 1994 to pursue our dream of being a professional sports photographer.
Our paths were very different, but in so many ways, incredibly similar.
Anthony was all in when it came to the world of journalism and sports photography. I became jaded. Up until he contracted the deadly virus, he was at the top of his game, including heading down to Florida in March to cover spring training and then to the Big East Tournament, where he was sitting courtside when it cryptically was cancelled during halftime of the game between Creighton and St. John’s. I quit the newspaper world in 2008. My freelance career continued, but my reliance and interest in staying in that space waned with each passing year.
I didn’t look back often, but I would experience twinges of regret when I’d see Causi post an image of his from a world championship game, or a behind the scenes image of him next to people like Mike Tyson, Tom Cruise or any of the countless celebrities and athletes he’d schmooze with.
I loved being in that world, but I knew I was meant for other things. Anthony was built for that world. But as much as our careers zig zagged past each others and contrasted often, there were common themes. We both loved connection. We both adored our family. We both could talk anyones ear off, often too loud for our colleagues in the press room, and we each found so much value in sharing the benefits that we enjoyed with the access that we were granted with others.
I remember walking towards the ice with Anthony before the start of game 7 of a playoff series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. He stopped to grab a picture with Iceberg, the Penguins mascot, to send to a friend’s kid. I didn’t get to see him often, but I heard countless stories of him going out of his way for others to teach them about photography, or to connect someone he met with a different friend who could be of help, or to take pictures of fans and go out of his way to send a print or a file to them.
On March 31st, my friend Jared Wickerham posted on Facebook that Anthony was in the hospital on a respirator while fighting COVID-19. Anthony was the first person that I knew personally that was hit hard from the virus. I checked daily on his status, as his wife Romina, who was also battling the virus, would give occasional updates. Days would go by, with no word. It was bad enough that he was going through this, that his wife and two young kids couldn’t go see him made it more painful. About a week ago, she gave an update that Anthony was improving.
After that, it was almost total silence.
On Easter Sunday, as our family wrapped up a backyard game of wiffle ball, I checked his status again. All I saw were more prayers sent from family and friends. I went to my phone before bed, which I shouldn’t do. I took a deep breath as I saw the attached article from my friend Dennis Clark reporting Causi’s death.
I won’t go into my feelings and emotions, because we all know what it feels like to lose a friend. But what struck me is what happened the next day. There is a time when we find out the type of impact that we have on the world. For some, it’s a quiet remembrance. For others, unfortunately, it can be of hostility. Others, like Anthony, have their life reflected back.
A Go Fund Me was set up for his wife and two kids. Within 24 hours, it had raised more than the original goal of $150,000. People from the New York Mets, New York Rangers and other teams made public statements explaining the impact that Anthony has had on their world.
The kindness that he exhibited during his life was given back. The times that he went out of his way to use his access to let a friends son stand on the court for the New York Knicks during warm ups, and then shoot a picture and send to the dad, was shared. The stories of him teaching photography- from fans in the crowd, all the way up to players for the New York Yankees, kept pouring in. I thought immediately to the scene at Wrigley Field, as the New York Mets were about to sweep the Chicago Cubs and go to the World Series for the first time in 15 years. The final inning was about to start, but Causi turned away from the field and towards the crowd.
With his arms raised, he found a way to get them even more excited. He shot images of the fans in all of their glory, and then collected information to send those same images to the fans. That moment is how I will remember him. And it made me think.
How do I want to be remembered?
Is it the size of my house? The amount of money in my bank account? My “successes”? Death has a way of showing us what life is about way more than life does. When I read about how his friends reacted to his death, it wasn’t because he wouldn’t be sitting next to Kim Kardashian or joking around with Rihanna any longer. It was because he made everyones life more fun. It was because he couldn’t stop talking about his kids. It was because he went out of his way to make others feel special, while working hard on the work that he loved doing.
This is a crazy time for everyone. Unfortunately, Anthony Causi wasn’t given the opportunity to slow down like many of us have been given. And in your quiet time, I want you to think about how you will be remembered. And if you don’t like what you see, you have an opportunity to change that.
I know that I will.