The Coming and Going of Friends

A few days ago I wrote about a friend of mine named Lessley Ellis, who was in the last days of his life journey. He had discontinued dialysis and was ready for that transition into Glory. He passed away last Tuesday night, March 9th. No immediate funeral gathering has been planned, but I hope to organize a celebration of his life in a few weeks. After all, he asked me to do his funeral and I said yes! It’s the least I can do for a man who I’d say did “the most he could despite his lack.”

It’s gut-wrenching to say goodbye to friends that have given you so much. With Lessley there was the hard reality of having to step back from his life when I retired from being the pastor of his church. It necessitated an ethical distance that is often misunderstood. Our paths would cross once in a while, but not the 4-5 times a week like it was when I was his pastor. He was one of those people who never stopped tugging on my heartstrings, never stopped being in my thoughts. His passing is almost like a second separation; the first from being his pastor and the second from stepping back from his bedside.

The interesting thing is that I reconnected that same Tuesday night with two former college classmates of mine, Jim and Lynn Fay, who I hadn’t seen in 44 years. Carol and I drove over to Aspen, where they were visiting for a few days of skiing. Jimmy and I ran cross country and track together at Judson College, in Elgin, Illinois. Lynn was the good-looking young woman that had a number of suitors vying for her attention.

We spent two and a half hours together and it was as if we hadn’t missed a day, although our physical appearances had altered just a tad. Jim expressed a desire to put together a reunion this summer of our old cross country teammates back in Illinois. What a hoot that would be! We shared stories of what was and talked about what is, laughed, hugged, and laughed some more.

Friends are blessings that can sometimes disappear for a while, but reappear in our memories or for another few moments. Friends are people we’re blessed to say goodbye to as we hold their bedside hand, or embrace in a hug punctuated with laughter after missing them for most of your life.

There’s a bittersweetness to friendship. We so often don’t realize the sacredness of it until it has walked by us into the past.

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