Saying Goodbye to Friends

Late last night my best friend John went peacefully home to be with the Lord after losing his battle against pancreatic cancer. He was surrounded by all of his large, immediate family and he was accompanied on his journey by them singing the Doxology. Such a fitting conclusion.

One of the most difficult things about getting old, at least for me, is the losing of friends. While it is always possible to make new friends, there is not the time to build the deep relationships that only the passage of time and shared experience can bring. John and I had known each other for about 40 years, but it was only for the last 20 or so that we developed a close and even deepening relationship.

John had a very big heart and was honest and trustworthy to the core. He was also a master craftsman, able to do almost anything he put his mind to. From being a world-class piano rebuilder, to cabinet maker, to rebuilding an engine or a whole vehicle John was a gifted one percenter. Because of those gifts, he became my primary asset in the remodeling of my mid-1800s house and in the process we developed a deep and significant friendship. While the work he did and helped me with was significant, our times talking through our religious faith, the state of the world today, and why Rolling Rock was an enjoyable beer will be the most missed. I can find, though it will not be easy, others to assist or do the work on the house, but I have no one to talk to like I talked to John. We challenged each other, often disagreed, sometimes he infuriated me because his sense of time was so inexact, but all of that only served to draw us closer.

Most importantly, we shared one overriding thing: our commitment and our love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We both confessed being born again by the blood of Christ and wholeheartedly proclaimed him as savior and lord. That was the deep undergirding of our relationship, the glue that held us together far beyond anything else we did together. John accepted his plight before any of us did, saying he was at peace, while we earnestly prayed for healing and restoration.

I will never forget the last time I saw him. He was mostly out of it and I sat next to his bed, holding his foot and praying intensely for healing, when something very strange happened. It is hard to explain but it was as if all of the energy drained out of my prayer. I felt God was saying to me, “No. I am not healing him. I am taking him home.” I have never had anything close to that experience before in my life. I didn’t tell anyone. His family was all around, but it was too private and at the time too upsetting.

There is an old aphorism, “Man proposes, but God disposes.” No matter what I wanted, God had made his choice. I needed to deal with that. Last night, alone in my office, just before he would have died, I felt an urgent need to pray for John and for about a half hour, I interceded. I knocked on God’s door. I banged on God’s door for every possibility. Then it passed and I commended him into God’s hands, for there are no better hands to be in.

This morning on the way to work, I noticed a message on my phone from his wife, alerting me to his passing. Today will be a sad/happy day. Sad, because I have lost an irreplaceable best friend. Happy, because he is in the everlasting arms.

I know we will see each other again and whatever the Lord has for us to do in his everlasting kingdom, I know that at least some of the time John and I will do it together. Thank you Lord for John, for everything about him, and thank you for allowing him to be part of my life and the glorious enrichment he brought to my family (both my wife and daughter loved John also) during his time with us. John, you were/are special and will be mightily missed, but you have graduated and for that I give thanks.

Praise be to God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with all honor and glory be to the loving Holy Spirit who guards our hearts and minds in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and who has placed us in the hands of our Father God, ABBA. Take John. I know you will keep him safe. I thank you, I bless you, I give you honor and glory. Amen.


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