The text message was simple and straight forward. “Bill Thompson died.” I’ve officiated at many funerals over the years. I’ve been the bedside of many people as they passed from this Reality into the Next. Paraphrasing John Donne, I am touched by every person’s death, but Bill’s had a different affect upon me.
I used to have lunch with Bill every three or four weeks when we lived in a small Iowa town. Our lunches were not professional in nature. We simply talked about life. From time to time he would slip into the back of the sanctuary where I preached, abandoning for the weekend his cradle Roman Catholic faith. I last saw Bill fifteen years ago or so at a high school regional basketball game. We hadn’t been in touch for probably a half dozen years prior to that, but when we greeted each other with a “guy-hug” it seemed like we shared a lunch only the week before. We quickly brought each other up to date on what was happening in our respective lives. Then we departed. I didn’t see him again.
I knew that Bill had been sick. I heard it through the grapevine. I should have written him a note or sent a card or made a phone call. I think that he would have appreciated it, but I didn’t do any of those things. I got busy and the thought, the moment left. Then I got the three word text: “Bill Thompson died.” I wished that I had done a better job staying in touch. I wrote a message on the funeral home’s internet memory book, but that is not the same thing.
“Teach us to number our days,” the Psalmist wrote, “that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Wise advice. It is easy for us to forget that each day is precious. Sometimes it takes the death of a lunch-mate, a long ago friend, to remind us of this.