As Carol and I were finishing breakfast one Friday morning, her phone began ringing.
"Oh, it's probably another of those robo-callers again." But when she looked at the screen, Carol saw a New Mexico number and a familiar name. "It's Bonnie!"
Bonnie was Carol's maid of honor in our wedding almost 55 years ago, and we visit her and her husband, Richard, when we get near their part of the state. The last time we saw them was in 2018 when we took an 11-month tour around the country in our newly acquired trailer.
"Oh, Bonnie, I'm sorry. I'll tell Gene. When you have funeral plans made, please let us know."
Richard was a good friend. A man of many talents, he spent several years building a 28-foot sailboat in his garage. He was also a scientist and an historian; and enjoying many great discussions, I learned a lot from him. Bonnie and Richard almost took their long-anticipated trip around the world in that boat, but a South Pacific squall informed them the 28-foot boat might not be large enough for the task. That was one dream Richard didn't see fulfilled.
"Thank you for calling, Bonnie. I'll tell Gene that Richard wanted you to tell him. Yes, we'll stay in touch."
That was kind of a shock. We didn't know that Richard was even sick, but he passed away due to cancer. No, it was not related to covid-19.
This would be an unplanned trip, but planning for someone to die isn't the norm. Especially if we don't even know the person is sick.
But we made the most of this excursion. We visited Carol's sister and her husband, her brother and his wife, and one of her childhood friends who is a pastor in Albuquerque. It was a quick and important 1,700-mile trip.
We were home for almost a week when Wil, a friend in Colorado Springs, emailed me.
"Gene, just learned that Bob passed away very early this morning. My condolences on this loss."
Robert (Bob) is a second cousin, but I didn't meet him until we both went to the same college. He had a great sense of humor, enjoyed cracking jokes, and was full of puns. I loved him and enjoyed being with him. Interestingly, after we left school, it was around 35 years before we got back in touch with each other. But we picked up where we left off. That's when he made the necessary contacts, and then motivated me to finish my manuscript and send it in for publishing.
Cousin Robert and his wife, Meg, lived in Oregon when we visited them on that same 2018 trip. We stayed in an RV campground two miles from their house, and Robert showed us the best scenic lookouts and the best restaurants in Waldport. Robert was a writer, and we had wonderful discussions about all the books we had in our minds. Sadly, when he began battling cancer, all those books remained sealed in his mind.
Responding to my friend in Colorado Springs, "Thank you, Brother Wil. You are a good friend, and Bob loved and appreciated you dearly."
"We were brothers with different parents," Wil responded.
Although I knew Robert was fighting cancer, it was still an emotional jolt to hear he left this life. I called Meg and we spoke for a few minutes. I affirmed our love for her, and she assured me that the situation is under control. She even quoted one of Robert's jokes before we hung up. And, no, Robert didn't have covid-19, either.
Acquaintances come and go. It's a "hi and bye" experience. However, some acquaintances become friends, and a few of those develop into truly deep and long-lasting friendships. Richard and Robert were two of those.
True friends enrich our lives. An enriched life deepens our understanding of what's going on around us, enables us to mature to where we can cope with problems, and prepares us to be a help to others who are hurting. And that is part of God's plan for us.
I've heard it said that to have good friends, we must be a good friend. We must be trustworthy and loyal. Friends are precious, and life is short.
The most important key to being a true friend is to know Jesus. If you live for Him, He will guide you in living a fruitful, truly meaningful life, and He will be your Friend throughout eternity.
-- S. Eugene Linzey is the author of 'Charter of the Christian Faith.' Send comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his website at www.genelinzey.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.