I received a text today that my friend, Gene, had passed away. Gene was the minister at my church when a mullet-wearing, 14 year-old Erik walked through the doors with his mother and brother. Gene welcomed us, made us comfortable and is one of the reasons that my children are attending the same church 27 years later.
Gene moved away years ago. I only saw him every couple of years after that and that was only when I was able to get through the throng of people that surrounded him. Maybe three or four minutes at most, yet Gene always made me feel like those were his favorite three to four minutes of his day. I had nothing in common with Gene. He was much older than me, played a fiddle, farmed, loved baseball and tractors. I can think of fewer things that bore me more, yet I always knew he loved me. I know that Gene touched hundreds of lives in his time here and that I could easily have been another face, yet Gene had a way of making you feel like the most important person on Earth. I’m sure hundreds of people could say the same. My family and I had a weekend in Mt. Pleasant (see My Boy Chose Right) and ate at a Tim Horton’s. Gene and his wife happened to be at the table next to us. I had not seen him in years but you would have thought that seeing my family was the greatest thing that had happened to him in a decade. He was that kind of man.
I got the text while at work and had to take a couple minutes alone a few times today, but I have not cried. I want to cry. I feel like I should cry, but I can’t. Every time I think of the man and what he did for my family, I can’t cry because I end my smiling. All I can see is the infectious smile of one of the kindest and most pure men that I have ever known. If I touch a fraction of the lives that he touched, if I can make people feel half as special as he did, if I can show a sliver of the love that he radiated to everyone he know, then I will be a better man.
I want to say the world got a little darker last night but that would be a disservice to Gene. The fact is the world is a far better place because of the time he spent here.
A job well done, Gene. A job well done.