My friend died. We had been the closest of friends since we were 12 years old. His name was Karl. He was one of the brightest people I have ever known. He was a musical genius. I was the best man at his wedding. I feel a sadness that he is gone too soon.
We came of age together. We drank before we were old enough. He used to drink in the backyard. We would cough when we opened our cans of beer so that his mother wouldn’t hear us. I suspect she knew what we are up to anyway. We lied about what we thought we knew about girls. We slept over many nights. In the summer we would camp out in his backyard or mine. That’s when we did most of our serious talking about life and dreams and love.
Sometimes we would “late date”our girl friends, then meet at a tavern for a few beers before turning in. Karl only ever loved one woman. He was totally devoted to her no matter what. We got into more trouble than we should have.
We laughed; a lot. We laughed at Chiller Theater and Monty Python and Woody Allen books.
Karl loved his family. He worked at a job that was not really fulfilling for 30 years to support them.
He enjoyed fishing and camping and the Pirates and the Steelers. He loved jazz and good books. He was an interesting guy. And I loved him. I am pretty sure I never told him that. I would have had to surrender my man card to say the words out loud. Maybe we didn’t have to say it. Maybe we just knew.
When he told me he had liver cancer I did not know what to say. No clever pastoral lines came to me. I think I just said, “shit.” It was Karl who talked about a solid faith from which he had never strayed. He served his church faithfully and put his musical ability to work there. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s in God’s hands now.” He was ministering to me. Now he is in God’s hands and for him all is well.
When the call came, I sat and had a good cry. Then i opened a can of Iron City Beer as I coughed. I said, “Here’s to you and the good life you lived. Thanks for being the best friend I ever had. I love you buddy.” I hope he could hear me.