One of the dearest and oldest friends I have, had a close brush with death recently. He didn't just stand on the banks of the River Jordan and cast a longing eye to that other shore, he waded right into its sparkling, clear waters.
It was in God's hands, not man's, no matter how capable the doctors. I left the hospital one night and cried all the way home. While taking a bath, it occurred to me that I should write his obituary so I wouldn't have to do it under the stress of a deadline and the heavy sorrow that his death would invoke. Thoughts, sentences and stories began to spring forth quickly so, as soon as I dried off and dressed, I went straight to my laptop and began to write.
He has a wonderfully big personality and is the most entertaining storyteller I've ever known. No phone conversation or dinner talk is ever short with him because he has an abundance of detailed stories to tell and updates on previous stories to give. When I had finished, I'd written one of the most joyful, delightful obits to be imagined.
Not because of the writer I am. (Though you should know that I did spend two weeks as a full-time obituary writer when I was in college.)
But because of the life he has lived.
He's been like a father to me. In fact, he was buddies with my daddy, one of the myriad souls who encamped daily at daddy's garage, drank coffee and told stories while sitting around a big wood heater. He has given me advice - both wanted and unwanted - loved me during the sad times and encouraged me toward the good ones. He is one of the most cherished ‘balcony people' of my life. By that I mean, he has figuratively sat in the balcony whenever I took center stage in some pursuit and cheered me on as though I was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
I knew he meant a lot to me. Without question. That his influence and fatherly love was engraved deeply on the person I am but when I read his obituary, it gave me just the kind of ‘talking to' that he delights in giving me.
What a life. Truly, the fullest of anyone I ever knew. He fought for his country, came home to build a successful business, served the Lord and fellow man at every opportunity and, what really spoke to me, was all the fun he had. When making a living got in the way of football games, races and travel, he retired and devoted his full attention to savoring the adventures.
Tink and I can be so devoted to working for the almighty dollar that we have cancelled vacations when a business opportunity presented itself. It is hard for me to turn down work because I come from people who know how desperate and poor things can get. For several weeks, Tink had, uncharacteristically, been asking, begging really, for us to take a trip to Ireland and Scotland.
"I want to see where you Scotch-Irish come from," he said. I have been to Country Antrim from which my people flee two centuries ago.
"Okay," I said. "If I can find a time in our schedule."
Then I read the obit I wrote and said to Tink, "About that trip you want to take...."
The obituary turned out, thankfully, to be unnecessary. "Now, that you're back to the land of the living," I told my beloved friend, "you should know that I wrote a heckuva of an obit for you."
He rolled his eyes comically and threw back his head to laugh. Actually, I think he should read it so he can appreciate the fine job he did with every minute God gave him.
Maybe that's why the good Lord decided to give him more time.
Ronda Rich is a best-selling Southern author. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.