It is an oddity that I have had very few friends my own age. My buddy Alan is 22 days younger than me. Other than that, the vast majority of my friends have been 5+ years older or younger than me.
Included in those numbers have always been several people who were my elder by decades. One such was Jack Evans.
Jack was a camp counselor at a camp I attended when I was about 16 or 17. I never really hit it off with anyone my own age...my shyness and social awkwardness prevented me from really joining in to most of the activities.
But Jack and I, we hit it off. We had a lot of lengthy, admittedly intellectual conversations. We became close enough friends that after camp was over, we maintained a correspondence.
A couple years later, Jack acquired Hodgkin's Disease.
Dad took me up to Seattle to visit him. That was tough.
Jack was a big guy, tall, heavyset, massive. Not fat, as I recall, just massive.
Except when we visited him in the hospital, he had been taking chemotherapy treatments. He was bald, had lost many pounds, and his physical strength had deteriorated so far that he could not even lift the pan to vomit into (for the uninitiated, vomiting is induced by the chemo treatments).
That was tough. The garrulous, intellectual, friendly guy was suffering massively.
It meant a lot to him that we visited (and a lot to me that Dad made a way to take me up there, I might add).
Memory of that stayed with me for years.
Jack's cancer went into remission. I got older, started dating and working, we lost touch somewhat.
But every time I went to Seattle, I thought about him, even though I seldom said anything...after all, what would co-workers care about a man they never met? Why would my wife be interested in hearing a story that, to anyone not me, is probably pretty pointless about a guy whose physical features I could probably not even describe anymore?
The influence he had lasted long after we stopped communicating, and my gratitude continued and continues.
Sadly, a couple weeks ago Dad called to tell me Jack had passed away.
I thought about going to the funeral but opted against it. I do not know why. On some level, I guess I would rather remember the journey our paths of friendship took than to swoop in years after our last contact and share my grief with people I do not know.
I have spent quite a bit of time the last couple weeks thinking about how things worked between Jack and I. When I think about how my actions, thoughts, words, etc affect those around me, a lot of the things I do are because of men like Jack who showed me a better way to live, a better mindset to share, a better way to walk through life.
Jack, I am sorry we lost touch, but I want you to know I am grateful for you taking the time to befriend someone so much younger than you. Please know that as long as I live, your influence will be felt in this world, and in a positive way.
I hope that you are at rest, happy and safe with our Lord. May God bless you for the good you did on earth and reward you for all eternity. You are missed.
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