Yesterday I lost a good friend. His wife, also my friend, called early to tell me that he had died in the wee hours of the morning. As far as anyone knows so far, the cause of death was a heart attack. Ironically, it's been almost seven years to the day since the first and only time I wrote about his heart condition, and he's had his ups and downs since then. Lately, I'm told, he's had mostly ups.
He was a good man and a successful, well-liked lawyer. He cared about the clients who could pay him and the ones he knew probably never would. Unless he was scheduled for court, where a suit was required, he showed up for work in starched, neatly-ironed jeans. It was common to walk into his office and find him kicked back with his cowboy boots up on his desk, a big stack of law books on the floor beside him and another book open in his lap. He liked to listen to music while he worked, everything from opera to zydeco, and it makes me smile to remember how many times he cussed the CD player when he couldn't make it play what he wanted to hear.
On slow days we had time for long talks about hunting and fishing (he talked, I listened), dogs (his and mine), books, movies, and other people. We argued sometimes (which lawyers like to do and so do I) when we veered into discussions about various aspects of politics and religion. More than a few times we speculated about whether or not there is an afterlife. Today I find myself oddly envious of the fact that he now knows for sure.
He had called me Christmas morning. We spoke for only a few moments then (he said he still had his brothers and others to call). He asked about my family, I asked about his, and he laughed as he told me about the new love in his life, a Yorkshire Terrier that had recently joined his family. He sounded really good.
He's touched a lot of lives, and a lot of people are going to miss him. As sad as it is, I felt much better yesterday after going to his house and spending time with his family. The stories about him were already flowing there, stories about things he's said and done over the course of his lifetime, enough of those stories to keep everyone who knew him laughing for years. We'll shed tears every time it hits us anew that he's gone, but when we remember him, when we think about who he really was, it'll be impossible not to smile through the tears.
You were one of a kind, John. I hope the hereafter was ready for you.