GOODBYE MY FRIEND
As we journey through life we have many, many acquaintances, and lots of friends. And rarely, someone comes along that far surpasses friendship. A friend we “truly love” is a rare breed, and if we have a small handful during our entire lifetime, we are lucky indeed.
I just returned from the memorial for that rare “Friend” I genuinely love. His name is Jim, and he’s one of those unique individuals who simply draws you in with his sincerity and honest interest in you—nothing fake. I can’t explain it with clarity, but if you ever “loved” a friend for who they are without understanding exactly why you do, well, that’s Jim. You’ve got other “friends”, sure, but for some indefinable reason you really love that guy or gal—that’s what I’m talking about. He or she is the kind of friend you don’t shake hands with, you hug—got the point?
I’d like to share a story with you about Jim if I may, a parting story to finally say “Goodbye.” I wanted to tell this story at his memorial, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold up, so I’m telling it now and allowing the tears to flow as they will.
It was hard on everyone when Jim was told the devastating news by the doctor that he had stage four pancreatic cancer, inoperable, and likely had less than a year to ‘live’. When I was told I had prostate cancer my mind instantly went chaotically numb, but the next words from the doctor were, “We caught it early, so don’t worry.” I didn’t hear, “And you may have a year at most.” I have no idea what my reaction would have been had I been told I was to soon die.
Well, shortly after Jim heard his future was limited, I told Jim to get his butt out here and that the two of us were going to spend the day on the lake and just catch up and chill out together. Jim and I truly love boats and boating. We boarded my Carver Voyager 570 and I told him to sit in the big, plush, captain’s chair in the pilothouse helm and take us out. We left the dock and headed out of the cove. He put his hands on the twin brass throttles and asked, “How much power do I have here?”
“You’re kidding! Really?”
We idled out of the cove and I told Jim to push those throttles all the way forward–to let her rip. Jim had this huge smile, slowly pushed them full out, and the Carver shot forward. “This is incredible,” he said, as he steered 80,000 pounds of white lightning down the lake at thirty miles per hour. He was in pure heaven and happier than a kid in a candy store.
On down the lake we idled into a beautiful cove, and I explained how to use the windless to drop the hook (anchor). We listened to music, went swimming, and talked a lot. We talked about life, love, our children, our wonderful spouses, and about dying—that was the hardest part.
“Jim,” I said, “ready for something to eat—I’ll get the grill going.”
I tossed on the fire a pair of inch thick boneless pork chops, slapped on Swiss cheese slices, grilled the buns, added mayo and lettuce, and put one in front of Jim.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“Take a bite and find out for yourself.”
Jim took one bite. “Pork chop sandwich! Never had one–this is the best damn sandwich I have ever had–fantastic.”
We consumed our big pork chop sandwiches and chips and sodas and continued talking. I couldn’t put out of my head as I gazed at my loving friend that soon I would not be able to see his smile again. That this wondrous guy I loved, right there in front of me, was facing death and he’d be gone, forever. It was so difficult, but I tried not to show my depression as we ended a wondrous day together and motored back to the dock, Jim in control of course.
It wasn’t long before the pancreatic cancer metastasized into his liver, and his body could no longer hold strong. He fought so very hard, but suddenly it seemed the battle was lost. The last visits at the hospital with Jim were terribly difficult for him and us, for the cancer and drugs waged war with his mind, and though he knew who we were, and tried so hard to speak, the nemesis of disease seldom granted him a clear voice and mind.
I was holding his hand, my other hand gently rubbing his head, trying to somehow say goodbye–but couldn’t. He was trying to speak, but it was too difficult for him. “Jim, don’t try to talk, it’s okay,” I said. “I just want you to know that I love you so much, and I don’t want you to go, I really don’t.”
I kissed his forehead, unable to speak the word “goodbye,” and told him I loved him one last time.
Jim turned his head toward me, looked directly into my eyes, and he gave me the most beautiful smile I had ever seen, and said, “Pork chop.”
The tears poured down and off my face and blurred the vision of my dear friend as I struggled to say, “I so wanted to fix you another pork chop sandwich.” But I simply could not tell him goodbye. He closed his eyes and I left my friend’s side.
The next day this man I loved so dearly, only 59-years old, was gone. And he took part of me with him. But the next time I’m in that cove, which will be soon, I will fix Jim another pork chop sandwich. If only he could be there with me to enjoy it.
I love you Jim. Goodbye dear friend. tj