The God of Old Friend Surprises

I’ve been catching up with old friends since my students left me and while I usually have to come down off of the mountain top after a week with students this year I’ve had a few experiences after the trip that took me on a higher climb.

The first, of all things, was a funeral. My best friend’s 90 year old grandmother who we called “Oreo”, because her gray hair had a big spot of black right in the middle of her head died this week. Her funeral was moments after my students checked out so I was able to get there albeit in grubby clothes from the week’s service trip. She was an amazing woman who had a rough childhood and an amazing marriage for 68 years to her now grieving husband.

Sad, though it was, my friend told me one amazing story. In his grandmother’s final hours her roommate was another woman who was much younger but also awaiting the end of her life. My friend’s mother, Camille, sat by her mother as she began the final journey home and a man came over. He was the son of the younger, dying woman. He spoke broken English and was Hispanic. He looked and asked Camille, “Your mother?”

She replied, “Yes.”

He then pointed to the other bed and said “My mother.”

This was a “I know how you feel, my mom is also dying” communication.

Not long after this, Oreo passed on. The man comforted Camille and said “I’ll wait here with her.” While Camille went to fill out all the paperwork needed.

She returned and the man was still tree and not long after Camille returned, the man’ s mother also died. And so, Camille did the same waiting for him.

Beautiful. They have both attended the wakes of each other’s parent. Death somehow unites people across cultures and don’t think moms are not smiling.

On a more lighthearted note, I went to the Hockey game with my college bud and former radio colleague John McDermott and his son, Jack. John’s a great dad and he let Jack bring a friend along. Two well behaved kids who were great to be with. John was great to me in the business and even tried to persuade me to become the program director of the Catholic Channel on Sirius radio one time. A nice night catching up. We bag on each other often in a good natured way and for years I was clearly the foil that he and all our other mutual friends would ruthlessly rip on. I think it’s how I developed a thick skin and still retained my sensitivity for others. A great game capped by an overtime goal with one tick left on the clock also made it a very memorable night with an old friend in the cheap seats. He even treated! A blessing on your house, sir! John has also inspired me as he just completed the NYC marathon this past year and has gotten so much healthier. Gotta stay healthy for those three great kids, loving wife and two cool dogs!

We plan to solicit the NHL to change overtime rules. No more shootouts just one period of “endless overtime” and NO line changes. You put five guys out there and a goalie. Some caveats. You can rest one guy on the boards for two minutes (do you also rest a guy or take a power play opportunity if you’re the opposing coach?). You commit a penalty and you’re ejected. Now your team plays short handed for the rest of the game. Most of these ideas are John’s and I think they can be implemented. Shootouts are fun and dramatic but kind of anti-climatic. Hockey should be the antithesis of fast technology in this case. I can hear it now: “In the 92nd minute of overtime….still tied between the sabres and the devils at 3.”

My friends Jeff and Beth and Paul and Eric and Fr Dave Dwyer are also to be commended for letting me crash at their various places throughout the week. Jeff wen went the extra yard and chauffeured me around on my final day in the city after a tough day of service and situations. (The whole story is more than bloggable, but we’ll save it for down the road).

Who would have thought that my two favorite moments of this week would have been a funeral, getting locked out and hanging out with a guy who bags on me? But it was and there was God in the midst of it all, reminding me of the gift of good friends.


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