Living ‘Til We Die

“I asked my doctor how long I have to live. She said, ‘Two months.’ Then, she paused, and said’ ‘Two to five, depending.'”

Jay and I had been friends for a long time. We usually meet for lunch once a month at our favorite restaurant, halfway between his home and mine, about a twenty-minute drive. I knew he had health issues, as most of us do when approaching our 70’s and 80’s. But Jay had mentioned, almost in passing at our previous lunch meeting, that he may be moving towards Hospice Care. I couldn’t believe it!

The man sitting across the table from me was fully alive. If you asked me to give you an example of someone who fit that description, “fully live,” Jay would easily come to mind. At 78, Jay had had at least four different careers during a long life that suddenly felt way too short. His current vocation was heading up a non-profit bestowing grants to organizations who confronted difficult population issues, usually in third world countries. For someone on their way to the end of life, Jay seemed as alive as ever.

There are people with whom our paths have crossed, that, looking back, seem more than coincidental. It’s as if someone other than me is writing this novel of life while placing certain characters in the plotline just at the moment I needed them. Jay is one of those.

I first met Jay when my first wife and I were heading towards divorce after 25 years of marriage. We sat down with Jay, a Family Mediator at the time, in a humble brick building on Park Road in Charlotte, while Jay laid out for us a plan to work out the terms of a separation agreement. Jay looked like a “dead head” wearing coat and tie — with his long, dark hair and beard. Affable, intelligent, and clearly a student of good communication and relational skills, my fears about the process settled down under the patient explanation of what my wife and I were about to face head-on. Three sessions, spaced several weeks apart, and we were done.

Fast forward at least 10 years, in my 50’s, recovering from a second divorce — the dreaded “rebound” marriage — I felt lonely and in need of male friendship. I needed men who weren’t married so we could talk about things only singles could understand. I had taken a class with Jay on “Faith Beyond Religion,” and was impressed again with his intelligence and his willingness to push the bounds of religious beliefs. So I found his phone number, and dialed.

“Hi Jay. I really enjoyed your class. Would you care to meet sometime?”

“Sure,” came the familiar resonant, deep voice. “I like walking while talking. Care to join me some evening after work on the greenway?”

“Sounds great to me.” I had an instant sense that a meaningful connection had been made.

It’s a mystery to me how these things happen. Carl Jung coined the term, “synchronicity.” We normally just call them “chance.” But I don’t buy it. What I believe now, after 10 years of a friendship that has had it’s highs and it’s lows, is that God was in my loneliness, and also in the friendship that unfolded on long walks and soulful talks over supper. It’s been one of those things that we refer to as, “It was meant to be.”

We live in a world that worships the material, the cause and the effect, explainable reasons and what can be measured or quantified. But for all that I have experienced with Jay over the years and what I have learned and what we have shared, I consider it to be true: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Jay is one of my Angels. And I trust that I’ve been something like that for him.

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