By Ed Crumley
Friends. Acquaintances. Just a semantical difference? No way! Acquaintances come and go. But friends stay, and stay, and stay for the long haul. Then . . . suddenly . . . they’re gone. But wait! They can’t go! It’s not time! It’s not fair! But isn’t that God’s decision?
George started me off in my future profession. Tall and heavyset, he opened his front door and gave me the key to my future. An ex-WWII bomber pilot, ex-insurance investigator, and finally commercial artist serving homebuilders around the Metroplex. Late at night in his garage studio, I sat mesmerized, learning the rudiments of creating lifelike color illustrations of architectural subjects. When he wasn’t regaling me with stories of his WWII exploits or the latest prank he pulled to get even with a personal foe, he was making me a “Swedish sandwich” which consisted of portions of most of the edible items in his fridge.
Rich was my college roommate. For four years, we laughed and joked about the human parade before us. After college, most of our adult years were spent thousands of miles apart, but every time we reconnected by phone or in person, time and distance collapsed and dissolved as if they never existed. He could play anything on the keyboard and could do outrageous impressions of characters we knew. He also showed his love for the Chinese people, serving as a missionary in Macao for several decades and raising a family there. His wife, Janice, called with the bad news. I miss him every day!
Fenske was another artist and what an artist. His natural skills were far greater than his employed use of them. More than commercial fame or getting paid for his work, he enjoyed making large humorous cards for his friends: cards for birthdays, cards for Christmases, and cards for any other occasion that would cross his very fertile and creative mind. Our group of artists met for lunch on Wednesdays. Fenske would call everybody with the roster of pledged attendees: Rex is going, Jerry’s going, Irwin’s going, Bill’s going, Jim’s going. Hope to see you there. Even though he’s been gone several years, I can hear him now.
Jack re-entered my life a few years ago with a phone call. We hadn’t seen each other or spoken for years. But we took up where we left off, laughing and going on about things we hadn’t discussed for decades. He was the same lighthearted guy but with a seriousness about the Lord and spiritual things I hadn’t heard from him before. He always closed our phone visits with his raspy, asthmatic request: “Let’s go eat some Mexican food”. We never did. A couple of months ago his photo and obituary in the newspaper slapped me in the face.
Limited space doesn’t allow including all the others, but suffice it to say when people we love leave us, they take part of us with them, cleaving off parts of our souls that we cannot get back. My mother left in 2008 and my wife’s father in 2009. They were both 100. Yes, they lived long lives, but it didn’t make their leaving less painful.
But wait, the glass is half full! I still have Jerry, Smokey, Chuck, Harry, Charlie, Richard, Mike, Errol, and Gene, but more importantly, I have Susan and the children and grandchildren. Most of all, I have the Lord. He tells me to hug them close and when they’ll listen, tell them about Him and what He did for them because those that know Him will be with me again and for eternity.