We’re not talking about a casual acquaintance. This is a lifelong friend. We met in school, in the early grades. We’ve been friends always.
His parents were divorced and his mother remarried. They had a son of their own and my friend felt pushed out. To make matter worse, his stepfather drank heavily and was abusive.
Jon often came home from school with me. My parents felt sorry for him, especially my mother. It soon became natural to include him in meals and, many nights, she made a bed on our sofa for him. He spent more nights there during our Junior High School years than he did at home. I was an only child and he became almost like a brother. He was there on holidays and birthdays and most other special occasions. My parents treated him like a son.
But, like most young boys, he grew restless and, at sixteen, talked his mother into signing papers allowing him to join the Air Force. And there he stayed for more than 20 years, getting married and starting a family while serving his country. Since he went in so young, he was out before turning forty. He obtained another job, raised his family and lived a rather cushy life for many years afterward. We were always in touch.
When each of my parents died, he was there holding my hand and shedding tears right along with me. When his mother and brother died, I was there for him, too.
In recent years, we’ve e-mailed and sent cards and talked on the phone, but we've both had busy lives and our contact has been waning somewhat. I didn’t even know he was ill. But of course, he didn’t want me to, I’m sure.
When I looked at the obituary picture this evening and saw his face looking back at me in a way that I’ve seen a million times before, I had a two-minute memory clip of my friend as tears filled my eyes.
I’m already sensing a growing void in my life.