This morning as I prepared to leave the house for work, I checked my phone for messages like I do every morning. However, this morning I received a message that I never would have expected – I got word that a friend of mine had passed away.
My jaw dropped to the floor and my body quickly followed, as I sat in the middle of my living room clutching my phone, scarcely believing what I’d just read. My thoughts and emotions began tumbling over each other, each one jockeying for position in the front of my mind. How could this happen? I just talked to him 2 weeks ago. He was too young. This isn’t fair. Why him? Ohmygodohmygodohmygod…. Waves of sadness began to wash over me as I remembered my friend’s brilliant and generous smile, the first time we met, the last conversation we had, the last meal we shared, the sound of his laughter.
And then my inner voice spoke up, “Why are you sad, K? According to your faith, you should be happy for him. He’s been released from the drudgery of this world.”
“Yes, but…I won’t ever get to see him again.”
“Oh, so you’re sad because of you, then?”
“Well, no…I just think that he was so young, there was so much left for him to do with his life.”
To this the voice did not reply, but merely presented me with a montage of memories. I recalled the time my friend showed up late for brunch, because he had stopped to help a man who was stranded on the side of the road and ended up ‘ministering’ to him as well. I remembered the peaceful, bemused tone in his voice when he recounted the time when he was in the military overseas and – through a series of mishaps – got stranded and had to walk more than 15 miles alone, in the dark to catch a flight back home. I recollected how committed he was to serving at his church – faithfully showing up each week to prepare dinner plates for elderly people in the surrounding neighborhood. I recalled thinking what a good sport he was to show up for my birthday gathering, gift in hand, effortlessly blending in with all my other friends, even staying late to help clean up though we’d only met each other a couple of days earlier. I remembered how impressed and shocked I was when he told me of his painful divorce and a not-too-distant failed relationship without an iota of bitterness or remorse, but with complete love and gratitude for the experiences, insisting that it was God’s grace that allowed him to emerge unscathed from both of them.
My friend was a man of faith, of honor, of such unmitigated goodness that every time I interacted with him, I grew more and more convinced that he was born with an ‘extra-nice’ gene I only wish I had.
Slowly I began to realize that my little voice was right – I was sad for me. I was sad that I hadn’t spent enough time with my friend; that we hadn’t spoken often enough in the last few months. I was sad – not that he didn’t get the time to do what he needed to with his life, but that I wasn’t taking the time to do all that I needed to do with mine. Without a doubt, I knew that my friend was one that could leave this Earth without regretting that he didn’t do what he was called to do in every moment. I wasn’t so sure that I could say the same. I sat on the living room floor for a few moments more and pulled myself together before heading out the door to get in the car. Before pulling out of the driveway, I offered up the following prayer:
Thank you for allowing me the chance to interact with as bright a light as Ken. Please send your spirit to heal and comfort those who loved him and who feel the loss of him even more than I do. Help us all to remember that we have been blessed to know your child. Remind each of us not to mourn him, but to celebrate him by living the life that you have called us to, by taking even the smallest opportunities to exercise our belief in you through extending ourselves to others. Make us ever mindful that the only time that matters is the present, and that we not only have the right, but also the responsibility to make the most of it. Amen.
Journey well, my friend.
His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things… enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Mt 25:21