The unexpected letter from an old friend was sitting in my mailbox the other day. The ritual was usually the same – I would send him a birthday card to arrive just before Christmas Day (his birthday) and they would send me their annual Christmas letter which would arrive shortly after the New Year.
Our friendship spans over thirty years, beginning in Singapore where we first met while I was on a singing tour and his father was a local pastor who hosted our team. When I returned to San Francisco, his family moved there shortly thereafter. We hit it off very well and I could tell that this would become a friendship that would last forever! He did too!
As bachelors, we enjoyed our time together and learned a lot about each other. Late night chats, spending time in ministry together, and supporting each other’s triumphs and miseries were some of the many things we did together.
Throughout the years, we separated just as any friendship would. However, we both knew that the foundation of our friendship would carry us no matter where we lived. I was married first and he was present to see our bachelor days come to an end for one of us.
I stayed in Northern California while he moved to Southern California and found his wife. They had a daughter and during my business trips to SoCal, I would find opportunities to meet with them and especially spend time with my old friend. He lived through my life tragedies and was always there for me.
True friendship knows no boundaries and time is but mere seconds. We could laugh and joke around as if we were still in our early 20’s. Of course, we moved a bit slower and had more responsibilities to handle but nevertheless, our moments together were always fun as if time stood still.
The last time we saw each other was in the summer of 2014 when our wives met for the first time. We were introduced to a wonderful Asian food center and purchased Durian, the king of fruits as my friend would call it! This fruit was special for him as it reminded him of Singapore. In fact, he was the one who introduced me to the stinky fruit and I loved it since.
We missed connecting in 2015 but I did not forget his birthday card so I sent it out on time as usual. Even during our most recent trip to SoCal, my wife and I thought of visiting them but forget to pursue it.
Therefore, when I received their envelope, I thought it was strange that it arrived so much later than usual. Opening the envelope, I unfolded the letter but did not pay attention to the date in the upper right corner of the page. Instead, a green slip of paper was enclosed as well.
The kitchen was a bit dark as I read the tiny words which seemed to play tricks on my eyes. The words began with “Dear Friend” – odd but whatever. As I continued reading, my eyes widened and I blurted – “What???” – in a manner that brought immediate attention to my wife.
My eyes did not betray me as the words informed me that my long time friend had suddenly passed away on December 18, 2014! It took over a year for this message to get to me and I can understand why his wife could not reach out to me earlier. I would like to believe that my recent birthday card provided her my mailing address to send me this sad note even though it was so late in coming.
Then I took a look at the enclosed Christmas letter – it was dated December 2014. She wanted to send out the last one with their family picture as the watermark on the page. It was a difficult day and I called a close friend to inform him of our loss – he was equally shocked and perplexed as to the timing of the notification.
Friendship knows no boundaries and I appreciated the times we have shared. I am looking forward to seeing him again in Heaven. The loss on earth is only temporary when one knows the Lord Jesus and has trusted Him as their Lord and Savior.
We will see each other again my dear old friend – in the meantime, keep smiling because in my heart, I will be smiling too.