I have been communicating with an elderly gentleman for about three years by email. We met online, he loved jokes and had a wicked good sense of humor. He had been struggling with Alzheimer’s and health problems, I could tell when he was doing well and when he was not. I could tell by his emails what time of the morning he got up. October 1st the emails I sent to him started coming back, I figured something was up..yesterday he died, we were notified by his step daughter..she said " He communicated with you alot..so I just thought you would like to know."
So it is an end. We have an end to the story. Maybe we don’t..you see Charles was an atheist. His father was a Pentecostal Evangelist in New York City.. Charles could quote Bible verse after Bible verse. His father committed suicide. Charles was a Marine..he was at Camp Lejeune..he always said that his children that were born there in 1957 and 1958 were marked..one had Aplastic Anemia and one had Cerebral Palsy. The love of Charles life was diagnosed with cancer here in Minnesota one summer..he said "That asshole doctor walked into the room, looked at my wife and said you are going to die." and then he walked out of the room. His lovely Rose died less than six months later. He remarried and his second wife died too..he said "I have out lived two women and one of my children..I am old and I can’t remember lots of stuff.. I am done now." I guess you are Charles.. I guess you are.
Did I share my faith with Charles, yes I did. I would occasionally send him a real Bible thumping email..something that might get through that thick head of his. Occasionally he would send one back to me…it was like an email war. I can’t be certain that he ever gave up his atheism..I guess I would like to think that those Bible Verses that he learned as a child came quietly back to comfort him the last few weeks of his life.
I loved it when he was in a reminiscing mood..he would write his thoughts to me..
"I was born in Newark New Jersey my father was a Pentecostal Evangelist. When I was old enough to remember we would go to the missions down in Hells Kitchen and The Battery in Manhattan. My Mother had one of those Fox Stoles with the head on I would go to sleep looking at the fox ( No wonder I like animals today, I guess they make me feel safe) Remember this was shortly after the depression. We moved several times and most of my memories then was being able to look across the river from the house and see the Empire State Building. We told the weather by the different colored lights on top. I got to go to Coney Island a few times to the boardwalk and the beach. The subways stops right at Coney Island, I never had enough money to ride in the park. At the entrance was this big Steeple Chase Ride. I need to stop now..I am tired."
I am sad. Really sad, I am not sure if there is a lesson to learn here or not. Don’t communicate with the elderly..they will croak before you do. Do not give out your email over the Internet..you will be crushed when your friend who you never actually met dies. Don’t get involved..Don’t send jokes to anyone..they might die. Then I think of the jokes he exchanged with me and Far Guy, and the wonderful stories he shared .. how I worried about him during Hurricane Ike .. about the ruckus he caused and his cab ride back home.. about the smiles we shared across the miles. Is my sadness now worth it? I say yes it is..it was a pleasure to have met Charles and my life is richer and funnier because of him. Rest in peace my friend:)