Trying to say goodbye to a good friend

Published 9:50 am Friday, May 12, 2017

By T.J. Ray

I still recall the day Grandpa was buried. When the line of cars behind the hearse got to Main Street, I saw that everyone else had stopped, and the procession went by the monument quietly.  That was a wonderment to me, that all those folks would just stop.

Nowadays when I encounter such a line of mourners, I also stop, and as they pass I wish the family God’s comfort. Most of the time I don’t have a clue as to who is lying in the long car. But my wish is that their life was good and their going painless. That pause and the respect meant by it is the only salutation and praise I offer. We come along, do what we do to live and finally go away.

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A friend went away last week. Truth is I hadn’t seen him in several years.  A  parameter of our lives today is that unless we know someone at work, or go to church with them, or live in their neighborhood we simply lose them. Then follows that moment of a procession, a painful trip to a funeral home, a few lines in the local paper. There is no real Goodbye.

Anyway, my friend was a good man. In the times we spent together, I saw him demonstrate amazing talent for creating things and solving problems. When we had trouble with our Scout troop bus, I didn’t worry—not just because I know nothing about vehicles but because I knew he would take care of it.  And he did, time and again.

Is it okay to broaden this homage to include all the folks who give time, effort and dollars to support organizations for kids? I’m thinking of all those moms who help with cookie drives and sew patches on uniforms too quickly outgrown. And parents who spent dozens of very tiring days selling stuff at football games. Is it okay if I choose to believe that the kids they helped are not the problem kids we deal with today? Maybe all those trips to little league practice and games will add stars to angelic crowns. All those hours of listening to discord bubbling from practice pianos may produce heavenly airs someday.

Probably no statue will go up in my friend’s honor. No holiday will be announced to recall his accomplishments. All that is left to testify to his walking among us is a wonderful mate and two super sons.  So in a way, he isn’t gone — he’s still here in them.

Peace, John!

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.