I got a record number of emails and messages when a Golden Girl actress died this week and I didn't even know her! In the early morning of June 5th my friend John went home to Jesus and I actually was his friend off screen. John was a member of my birthday party brigade. His wife had died and his family was far away so we adopted him for the last couple of years. John loved bacon but it wasn't good for his congestive heart failure so he had to give it up. He had to give up a lot of things he loved like everything that had salt in it or the letters MSG. John came back to the Church slowly but surely and proved that 85 year old Malaysians know how to still have fun. Yep, John was from Malaysia and had the coolest accent ever, kind of a mixture between Christopher Walken and Walter Matthau, if they had an older uncle who was from Malaysia. His voice inflections were my favorite. For instance when he would talk about bacon he would say "baay-kenn". That might not sound very cool to you but it has forever changed the way I will say bacon.
You may know my track record with people over 80. To sum it up, I love hanging out with them, we build a friendship, I learn from them, they laugh with me, yadda yadda yadda, they die. I sometimes feel like I am setting myself up for disappointment every time I meet a new over 80 friend. But maybe the knowledge that our time together is short only helps our friendship grow faster. We don't dilly dally. We cut right to the heart of the matter. I was truly honored to visit and be with John during his last few days on earth. I saw a difference when he decided he was done and almost a relief when he knew he was on his way out. Almost a sense of adventure to see what was next. The last time I saw him was Thursday and after I kissed him on the head and said my goodbyes I had a feeling that was the last time I would see him so I went back for one more kiss and a hand shake telling him I was going to New Mexico the next day for comedy and he smiled. Friday I left for the airport and John went back into the hospital. That night I just could not fall asleep even though I was tired and had three hours of talking to do the next day at a conference. I tossed and turned and the hours kept going by, 12, 1, 2, 3 finally around 3:45am I sat up in bed and said, "John!"
Even though I could not physically be there to visit him I realized I could do something even better and so I prayed for my friend John who was alone and dying. It wasn't anything super holy, in fact I may have even yelled at him a little but as soon as I knew why I couldn't fall asleep I said a quick prayer. No sooner that I prayed for him I was out like a light and even though I just got 4 hours of sleep I woke up rested. After my first two talks I called home only to hear what I already knew, "John had died late last night". I said, "I know, I was up all night with him!"
This morning, to honor my friend, I ate my weight in "baay-kenn"