Driving home the other evening, I was struck by peaceful lights of beauty appearing in a sky of dusk. Nearing darkness, shades of pink and coral contrasted against the horizon of dusty blue. Before I rounded the bend, I pulled off the winding road in order to capture such sights from the camera on my phone.
Ironic, how God works. Just before the unexpected sight of “Heaven,” I was reminiscing about a family friend who had passed away ten years ago during holiday time. I remember the late stages of his illness as being such a dichotomy. Christmas trees at hospitals. Smiles for the sake of children. Death approaching while filling carts with Santa’s toys.
Has ten years passed me by? It hardly seems possible…and yet, lifetimes have come and gone…. If I unearthed a time capsule from all those years ago, what would I find? Deep down inside there would be snapshots of a jolly great man, tall and big with white, blonde hair together with a cheery grin. This family friend of mine had a huge personality that was full and giving. When I think of him now together with this time of year, I am reminded a bit of Santa Clause……
My friend had a terrific sense of humor, loved family more than anything and worked hard to support them as a manager for a car dealership. Just before his cancer diagnosis he was about to be promoted. Soon he would be the manager of a brand new dealership. One that would be his very own! He was fabulous with people and could talk to anyone on the street or in a jeep. And, oh, how he loved life. I never saw him waste a day. Not a simple second nor a magic minute.
Today, my friend’s eldest son is a married father with two young children of his very own, a little girl and a baby boy. Like my husband, my friend would now be a “Grandpa!” Together with my husband, he would be so very proud. The two would forever be carting babies around on tops of shoulders to root for their favorite teams, shouting for the runner on third base to run into HOME. For years, they coached baseball as a twosome, instilling life lessons into little boys while grooming them for high school teams.
A couple of months before this terrific man’s passing, my husband met me at the hospital for a visit one afternoon. Sensing a mood of defeat, I remember taking his hand in mine. His grip was still strong and felt warm to the touch. Moving in closer, I was sure to look directly into the dampness of his eyes. “I’m a better person for knowing you,” I remember whispering to him. At first his brows furrowed, not quite sure if I was telling him the truth or not. Within seconds, however, the crystal blue of his eyes shined through with thankful acknowledgement.
This special gift of a friend passed away shortly after the 2004 holidays when he was 44 years old. He left behind a loving wife together with five dear children. Barely a day goes by that my husband and I don’t remember thoughts of him.
Especially during Christmastime. When Santa Clause comes….