One of my closest friends, a man about 20 years my senior and who I’ve known and admired since I was in my 20s, has been stricken with Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s been escalating for over a year. And now it’s gotten to the place where he doesn’t remember our last phone conversation.
This is a man who I owe a great debt to in my Christian life and ministry. He’s the first one who exposed me to God’s heart for the poor and the oppressed, something I’ve been totally focused on for the last three years.
My friend isn’t on the Internet, for he has no computer. (I bought him two computers over the years, but one died and the other he sold.)
He’s never written a book, he has no blog or email address, and he is largely unknown. Yet he’s the smartest and wisest man I’ve ever met. A hidden gem in Christ.
One sad memory is burned in my brain. Last year, I treated my friend to dinner at an upscale steak restaurant called Charley’s Steakhouse.
We finished our meal and he went off to the restroom. I waited, and when he didn’t return, I started searching for him.
He was nowhere to be found, so I got the manager involved. She and her staff combed the place, looking for my friend. We started walking the parking lot (it was around 9 pm and dark).
After 45 minutes or so of searching in vain, we called the police.
They found him on some street trying to walk home. He had forgotten he was at the restaurant with me and that I was waiting for him.
Anyways, I miss my friend. Yes, he’s still here, but his mind is going.
The old conversations where we would burn up the phone lines for hours talking about the Lord, the Scriptures, scholars, theologians, history, philosophy, art, and life in general are gone.
There were times in my life where I would call my friend almost daily.
We’ve been through dark times and deep waters together. We’ve also shared and celebrated the joys of life.
I still call him at least once a week, and I make sure I visit him in person to take him to nice restaurants (though I now follow him if he heads off to the restroom).
Yes, my friend is still here. But in another sense, he’s gone.
Even though I spoke to him by phone yesterday, our conversations are limited to his failing memory.
In short, I miss him.
Point: Cherish the times you have with your friends and loved ones. Relish them. Be present at every moment when you’re in their presence or you speak to them by phone. There will come a day when they will be gone . . . even if they are still present in body.