I lost a friend on Saturday.
But I had the pleasure of having lunch with him back in November.
We had a great time. We laughed. And we cried. And we made some beautiful memories.
I met Tom about 25 years ago. His wife Ann had dated my husband Ed in high school and in college. In fact, one of our first dates was to their wedding.
"I am NOT going to your ex-girlfriend's wedding," I told Ed.
"Yes you are."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes you are."
Well, I went. Begrudingly.
And low and behold, I actually liked Ann and her new husband Tom. A lot.
Fast forward to roughly two years ago. Tom was diagnosed with late stage cancer. I ran into Tom and Ann on a few occasions at our oncologist's office. I noticed that he would say hi to me, then continue reading his book. He just didn't seem like himself. I chalked it up to not feeling very well.
A few months later, Ann called to wish me a happy birthday. She told me that Tom was kind of irritated with me because I acted a little too happy to have cancer. However, she went on to say, "But Tom is a lot like you now."
"Really, what do you mean?"
"He shares his faith now with whoever he's sitting next to when he's down at USC."
Just then, I heard Tom's voice in the background yell, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RUTHIE!"
He then got on the phone.
"Oh, Tom. You sound so good!" I told him, choking back my tears.
He started crying. We both did.
I told him that we needed to have lunch, just the two of us. We met a few days later.
I had never had lunch with just Tom. We were friends because our spouses were friends first. But on that day, we were friends. Really good friends. We talked about things that only two people going through this journey could share with each other.
I remember three very special things about that lunch.
First, he was waiting outside the restaurant for me when I arrived. When we hugged hello, he said he loved me. When we left, he hugged me good-bye and told me he loved me. He was radiating love.
Secondly, while we were eating, he lit up like a Christmas tree when he spoke of going to heaven. I remember sitting across the table from him and witnessing the glow that came over him as he shared how amazing it will be. It was beautiful to see.
And this is my favorite memory from our lunch.
I asked him how he shares his faith when he sits down next to someone at chemo. I told him that I've been doing this thing for three years now, and I still don't know exactly what to say.
He thought about it for all of three seconds and said, "Why don't you just ask them, 'What's getting you through this?"
I knew that was gold to my ears the moment I heard it. I actually got my iphone out of my purse and typed it in my notes so I wouldn't forget. (See the photo I took during our lunch back on November 6th). His thought was brilliant. So simple, yet so brilliant.
"What's getting you through this?"
Heck, it applies to everything. What's getting you through the toughest thing in your life?
Our relationship with Jesus.
Such a simple question to begin such an important discussion.
When I read Ann's email on Saturday that Tom had passed away, my heart smiled. He was now in the presence of Jesus. And I know that's exactly where he was ready to be.