The people close to me know the story, but the time has come to share it. It’s pretty personal. I’ll omit names to protect others’ privacy, but my people I keep close will know the serious details.
My friend’s dad passed away. Over a year ago. But it’s as raw to me today as the day it happened. I loved him like my own dad. He was a cool guy; a good looking old man that all the ladies in the neighborhood chased after because he was so sweet, charming, and talented. His last year of life he was 89, and he never really showed his age up until then. COVID was not his cause of death literally, but the situation did no service to a man who was still taking short walks, playing the occasional round of golf, and dining out with nothing more than a cane at his disposal.
He and I shared some sweet times together at the end. I cooked him soup, and while I always considered myself a good cook and master soup maker, I doubt he would have told me if the stuff I was bringing him wasn’t to his liking. He seemed to like it, and I don’t think he was pulling my leg. It was such a small thing, but we bonded that way a few times a week: having a cocktail or our “happy hour”, settling down to soup, bread, and a small salad after some thoughtful prayer together. We sometimes sat and watched golf, while my friend would run an errand or get to an appointment, and other times we just chatted. I can be ridiculous, and I think he was genuinely entertained by my no-holds-barred BS, quite the contrary to my friend and his lovely daughter. We made each other laugh.
The last time I saw him, I somehow knew it would be the last. I went home that night and had a long, hard, ugly cry. I knew it was his time. I knew he’d had a charmed life. And I knew it was time for him to go home to Jesus. But I selfishly cried and cried and cried. Then I sat down and wrote a very short poem in his honor, sobbing the entire time. Now…I don’t consider myself a poet, but more of a story teller. I just had to let it out though, the only way I know how, through writing. I did the same thing after my brother passed so many years ago.
The next day I learned he had died a couple hours after I had written the poem.
The days that followed were a blur. My primary focus was turned to my friend. Hand holding. Crying. Drinking. Planning. More crying. I didn’t tell her about the poem right away, it didn’t feel right yet.
Then I received a call from my old advisor in the English Department. A call to writers. The Wayne Literary Review needed stories, poems, photos, and the like for their 2020 publication. Not a paid gig, but a call for submissions and the opportunity to be published if chosen. Each year held a specific theme. The theme for 2020 was “home”, since we had all been quarantined at home for the pandemic. Every hair on my body stood up when I read that, for the title of the poem I had written for my friend was titled “Home”. The first thing I ever submitted for publication was chosen, and they asked me if they could publish it. Of course they could. It would be an honor for me.
I finally told my friend what happened. How the poem came to be that night, and how it came to be submitted and chosen for publication. We cried together about that, and about how proud her dad would have been of me. She asked me if I would read it at his celebration of life. It was the first time I ever turned down such a request. I had officiated a wedding, writing the entire manuscript for that event. I delivered a eulogy in the past. I wrote the obituary for my friend’s dad. I’ve written dating profiles for friends. I’m working on a novel. But even today, as I write this, I just become overwhelmed with emotion whenever I talk about him, he was so very dear to my heart. I didn’t want anyone to read it at his service. It was so short and seemed lame without the back story. In my eyes anyway.
But today I received another call from the English Department and the Wayne Literary Review. The hard copy of the publication is ready for me to pick up. And I will have limited copies. So I will share it here since you now have the story and it is officially copyrighted. And tomorrow I will pick up the copies. Don’t be offended if you don’t get one. I think my friend, my daughter, and my own father top the list in addition to one I will want to keep for myself.
Perhaps now that you know the story, the meaning might feel a little stronger. He was loved. And still is. By many.
Home I held your hand For weeks Until the laughter in your eyes faded One last time. I tearfully held your hand and watched you go home.
Image by Pexel