Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Lost Friend

A little over an hour ago, I found out that I had lost a friend. It wasn't a big argument that finished our friendship. It was a heart attack. Frankly, I'm still in shock. I'm typing this as some kind of catharsis -- a way to process all this -- because this really rips at me.

This afternoon Kenny's wife came home to find him on the couch. Dead. Kenny was about my age, but was at least half a foot taller. Actually I never got to meet him face to face. We passed each other once without knowing it. But we talked and talked through Internet connection. We always talked about wanting to get together, but we were separated by about 1000 miles until about a month ago. He had just relocated to be closer to his daughters who were the lights of his life. But we hadn't met up yet. Now he's gone.

We met through a couple of online bulletin boards for IndyCar fans. Sometimes we were on the same side, sometimes we were debate opponents, but Kenny always treated me with respect. He treated most everybody that way. But Kenny was very outspoken. You knew where he stood on most issues. He didn't mince words. Sometimes the pure emotion of his diatribes got him into trouble, but he was always honest. Refreshingly so.

Kenny was, what I called, a lapsed Catholic. He had a lot of problems with the Church at Rome. Their doctrines conflicted with his liberal politics and that tended to set off his temper. Kenny told me back in '98 that "we would have to sit down and have a long talk." I told him I was always ready, but he kept putting it off. Finally last year, we had an electronic conversation. He had a lot of questions about the Christian faith. It eventually turned into a series of 20 long emails. I still have a copy of that discussion. Looking over the documents, Kenny's questions weren't much different from the questions of any seeker. I answered everything, but still couldn't satisfy the conflicts within his head. The discussion was left open-ended with a promise to continue to consider all I had shared with him.

We hadn't talked much about spiritual matters over the past year. I don't know what was going through his head over the final twelve months of his life, but he didn't share any huge theological epiphanies with me. It's likely he had just pushed it all to the back burner and forgot about it. Now he's gone. The conversation that never really ended is now over.

I don't know where Kenny is now. Not knowing his heart, I certainly can't judge Kenny. I do have my suspicions, but I put my trust in the only perfect Judge who knows the contents of a man's heart.

And I am reminded that it's not my job to bring Kenny into the Kingdom -- it's the Holy Spirit's job. But it still hurts. I am grateful to God for the opportunities I had to share with Kenny and for his receptiveness to what I had to say. I am thankful for his friendship, albeit an electronic one. I am sorry that I didn't get to meet him face to face. But mostly I feel a sense of emptiness because of my lost friend.

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