This is my friend Gary. We go back a long way. Met at Tryon High School when we were 14 and Freshmen, ready to set the world on fire
Gary and I always had a unique friendship. We had a lot of common ground. In particularly, we both loved taking active roles in clubs and community. We both loved debate. Gary had a big personality. Magnetic. Charismatic. The person everyone enjoyed being around. If you were lucky enough to know Gary, you’re lucky enough.
After high school graduation, Gary and I kept loosely in touch until he moved to Simpsonville, SC in the early 2000’s. I can’t remember how we reconnected but he would, on occasion, meet me for lunch, with my kids, when I would take them to their Pediatric Dentist in Greenville.
Then he moved to the Raleigh area. Again, we kept in touch loosely but then tragedy happened. Both of Gary’s parents were killed in a car accident. After their deaths, Gary made the choice to come back home and help his sister run the family business. He sold his home. Packed his belongings and came back to Columbus, NC.
This is where our longtime friendship grew again. Terry and I would occasionally have Gary up to eat with us. Then I got a crazy hair-brained idea that we should start a dinner club with other local friends. We did. About once every 8-10 weeks, we would meet at local restaurants or each other’s homes.
Then two years ago in late August I received a call from Monica, Gary’s wife. Gary had been admitted to the hospital earlier in the week and things didn’t look good for my friend. Without hesitation, I immediately went to Spartanburg Regional to see what was going on. Upon arrival, it was evident that my friend was in great distress. In fact, doctors weren’t certain he would live through the night. He did. Thus began an almost 7 weeks roller coaster of ups and downs.
During Gary’s hospitalization several friends volunteered to sit with him on a regular basis. This gave Monica a reprieve and also allowed her some time to work or get other necessities taken care of. Gary was not always joyful when I would show up. Mostly because there were times when my Terry mentality kicked into high gear and I didn’t shy away from confronting him on some pertinent issues.
One of the hardest conversations we was over the death of his parents. This was a real turning point for him. I asked him if he was angry with God and I asked him if he had ever grieved the loss! His answer to both did not shock me. “Yes, I am angry with God. No, I never had time to grieve.”
I knew and understood what that felt like. I was even able to tell him my story and how God had finally set me free from the bondage of anger that raged within me.
After that conversation, several days passed before I saw him again.
The next time I walked into his room, everything changed. His attitude. His countenance. His outlook. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what I was seeing. But having an inquiring mind, means you ask the question. “Gary, you did it, didn’t you? You finally forgave God. You finally gave your heart to Jesus.”
A sweet smile spread across his face and a simple, “Yes!”, flowed from his mouth. In that moment, I knew for sure that no matter the outcome of Gary’s situation, everything was going to ok.
Gary’s life on earth ended a few weeks later and on that day Gary’s life in heaven began. The best part is I will see my friend again.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeith in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16