I just got off the phone with an old friend. He has been living with a progressive and terminal condition for more years than he was expected to. My friend called to say goodbye and his words were so beautifully simple:
“I know I don’t have long. I just wanted to call and say, I love you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I am grateful to have had you in my life.”
I thanked him and did my best to express how much joy I experienced in knowing him. I told him, “I look forward to seeing you in the next life.” He laughed and said, “Yeah, we’ll have fun.”
There was just a fleeting moment in which I worried that I might be awkward or not know what to say. I focused my mind on who I know him to be – and any self-consciousness I might have experienced just fell away. That phone call is tattooed on my heart along with the memories I have of him.
God speaks to me in lots of ways. The conversation with my friend today gave me pause to reflect on just how important the things I’ve been stressed about are. I know that all of my problems are good problems and still I sometimes try to run the show instead of letting my Higher Power be in control.
It sounds cliché to say, but I want to love more fully the way my friend loves. For many, many years, my friend fostered and adopted children. I was always moved by how he was with them. I was humbled as he explained that it was the kids who taught him the most about how to love and be loved.
My friend is a “friend of Bill’s” and countless souls in the fellowship. He’s a kind and patient man who sat with newcomers and offered words of encouragement and practical advice. He would always speak of his own struggles and lessons painfully learned. His hope was always to open doors for others and to help folks “get it” before the disease of addiction caused further suffering.
My friend has a remarkable ability to not take himself too seriously. He is the master of puns and “dad jokes.” His laughter is infectious. He is one of those rare people that you can feel better just because you’re around him.
In my profession and in my life, it’s rare for me to get to say goodbye. Those I serve most often get to a place that’s better and when they feel fulfilled or reach a place they can’t see moving past… they most often just stop coming to see me. I get it – for people like us, saying goodbye was always a painful experience and so we avoid it.
I’m grateful that I got to say goodbye and for having my focus renewed. This is a lesson learned countless times – don’t sweat the small stuff, show up, give love… and get better at receiving it.