I remember that day like it was yesterday.
Walking into my best friend’s house and getting the strong pungent smell of rose petals.
(The smell of a dying loved one…used to anoint the body as they pass…to bring comfort and soothing).
I look in the corner where I often times remembered seeing this man working on his newest literary work, or strumming on his guitar, and he wasn’t there. Walking into a house of complete silence and prayers was simply unusual for me. Not hearing ‘Satchmo’ blaring thru his amazing sound system.
I knew this man for 5 years before this point – and saw his slow decline in health. I got to talk with him for hours on end about matters regarding Theology and Jesus. Moments that I will never forget, and never ever take for granted.
He knew his time was coming soon – and to know that he wanted to spend a few hours with me a week talking about Christ, scriptures, or theology in general is very humbling (looking back on it now).
I walked into his bedroom, and saw him laying there. In complete relaxation – in complete peace. Ready to go see his Father.
He had declined in heath and motion so much that weeks before his passing, he had to use a pencil with his mouth to point to things he needed: drugs, food, bathroom, music, etc. Seeing this great man slowly passing was hard for me. To say the least.
Remembering his days of singing ‘Walkin’ in Memphis’ and many other blues songs by some great musicians, and remembering seeing him slowly starting to lose his ability to play guitar, and type. Seeing the look on his face when he finally accepted that he couldn’t reach those notes that he used to be able to only a couple weeks before that point…it broke me.
This man was an amazing writer – he had some great works of poetry and novels alike. A great writer. A great writer. A genius.
Walking into the room – I see him there. Breathing softly. I walk over to him and touch his hand. He cannot reply…but I start talking to him about how much he means to me. And how much I appreciated him in my life. About how great of a spiritual father (and sometimes more like a real father) he had been to me. Thinking of that moment as I type this, I am starting to choke up. Not from sadness – but from a place of rejoicing. He had poured into my life. More than any other man to that point. He couldn’t respond…but I noticed him blink, or flench. I took it as a ‘It was worth it…’ or ‘I love you too…’ and I squeezed his hand and walked away slowly. Hugging on my best friend and his mother on the way out.
I knew it was time.
As I walked into my house’s door I get a phonecall from my best friend.
He didn’t need to say more. He didn’t need to say anything. The phonecall spoke louder than any notification he could have ever told me. I knew what I had to do. I drove. I drove faster than I’d ever driven before. I drove with my hazard lights on…honking…making people get out of my way.
I was going to see my friend. NOW.
We went to his small monastery church…and cried. No words were spoken. Just tears. Tears of mourning, tears of rejoicing, tears of love, tears of gratefulness. We celebrated. It was glorious.
A week later it was time for the funeral. It was open casket. The smell of roses and frankincense and myrrh filled the room. Candles all around, icons all over the church. (He and his family were Greek Orthodox). They enjoy their scents.
Seeing the wooden box in the middle of the church…knowing that that great man’s flesh was laying in there. Knowing that his soul was somewhere else…somewhere better. Somewhere without pain, mourning, and weeping. Somewhere where he was finally reunited with the King he so passionately and fervently shared with me about.
We walked up for visitation – and a tradition is to kiss the forehead of those saints who had gone. I did this. I had to. I had to give him my last respects. Then we carried his fragile body outside, lowered it in the ground, and I had the honor of grabbing a clump of dirt and scattering it over his casket. (A honor typically reserved for close family members…I was honored to do so)
Tears started flowing down. Knowing that I’d never again be able to listen to him singing his favorite blues, see him type his newest novel, or smoke a pipe with him on the back porch talking about theology. But that was okay. I would see him again…soon.
That day, death finally hit me in the face. And it was beautiful. It was not something that needed me to remember it and fear it. It turned into something that I could embrace and love. Something that I could even look forward to (not in a morbid way).
Death is a release. Death is a new door opening, and one closing.
I accepted it.
Death is good for those who love Jesus.
It is good. It is great. God is good.
Wow, John, that is so beautiful. What a special tribute to a man who meant so much to you. Seems to me because of his impact on you he is also impacting all of us who “know” you. I can’t wait to meet him someday. Thank you for sharing about your friend.
thank you for the lovely comment :) can’t wait to see him again one day soon!
Wow man…. This almost brought me to tears in the McDonalds I’m sitting in currently.
thanks man. you are awesome. miss you.
That’s such a great story. You keep uplifting us with your great insight. Bless you John!