Have you ever said goodbye to a friend? Not goodbye, see you later. Not goodbye, we’ll keep in touch. I mean really goodbye. Forever. Today, I had a chance to say goodbye to a friend. His name is Ken. I flirt with him unmercifully every Sunday and tell him I know he must have girlfriends lined up for miles bearing casseroles. His wife died a while back and he’s seemed to have had a hard time getting over it, though he always has a smile on his face. A couple of weeks ago, he came to church in a wheelchair and said he had been diagnosed with acute leukemia and wouldn’t be around much longer. We all cried as we shook his hand outside the sanctuary door. He was there the next week too. Doctors had said he probably only had another week to live, but he didn’t want to miss communion or a chance to say goodbye. He invited everyone to come see him at Hospice of the Ozarks and thanked the church for the support it had shown him for many years. He got to say goodbye. And so, today, over lunch, I went by to say goodbye to him too. I found him asleep in front of the television set with orange Cheetos crumbs circling his mouth. His daughter told me he had been outside enjoying the birds this morning and that he had been having a good day. He opened his eyes and with a big smile said “Hi, Christy! It’s been a joy getting to know you!” Those words filled me with a warmth I can’t describe. What a sweetheart to share one of his last days making me feel special. I told him how much I loved him and that I would be praying for him over the next couple of days, and then I went back to work. I’m still reeling from the whole idea that I said goodbye to a friend today over lunch. Thank goodness I got to tease him one last time about the long line of ladies I had to push out of the way to get in to see him. And, thank goodness I got to tell him what an inspiration his courageous spirit has been for me and Bud over the last couple of weeks. I hope I can do it…I hope I can smile and say goodbye when my time comes and that I can be an inspiration to others as I’m facing my last days. I know it doesn’t always happen this way – that I could die in an instant. But, I hope if I know it’s coming that I won’t hide away, afraid for friends to see me looking my worst or worrying about embarrassing myself. I’ll never forget how Ken did it, and how special he made me feel as I was saying goodbye to my friend. I consider it a great a blessing and a wonderful lesson for the living and the dying.
“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. You life will never be the same again.” -Og Mandino