The Streets Of Heaven Are Getting Crowded

In this finite world we live in, there are times when we need to take a step back and take a look at just what are the really important things in our lives. I think about this every time I lose a loved one, be it a family member or a very close friend. Unfortunately, I’ve had to pause and think about this recently, with the passing of yet another close friend.

I know that death is inevitable, and that none of us will be getting out of this life alive, but it doesn’t ease the hurt when we lose someone special to us, or when the world loses someone who has spent their life giving time, energy, talent, knowledge, compassion, laughter and friendship to many, whether we knew them or not.

For many years now, a small group of friends, of which I am a part, has met regularly for coffee once a week and has gotten together at Christmastime and once in a while to watch our beloved, yet not so good, Cleveland Browns play football. As frustrating as our team might be, the loss of a football game doesn’t compare to the loss of a loved one; the loss of any team I cheer for doesn’t compare to the loss of a loved one. The loss of any teams I coach doesn’t compare to the loss of a loved one. The mess in Washington, D.C. doesn’t compare to the loss of a loved one, and the argument over gun control, though both sides have valid points, doesn’t compare to the loss of a loved one. Recently, and sadly, one of the members of our weekly “coffee club” has just decreased the population of Earth, while increasing the population of heaven.

Our friend was kind of quiet in our coffee meetings, preferring to listen more than talk, but if we got onto the topic of why the Browns lost, or a discussion of a Yankee loss, Bob wasn’t afraid to express himself, both adamantly and animatedly. He took the word “fan” right out of fanatical. He bled orange and brown during football season, and Yankee pinstripes during baseball season.

Years ago, in our younger days, we’d meet regularly at a local “watering hole,” and I recall a time when the Yankees had just won another World Series. We were watching the locker room celebration, and Bob ordered an inexpensive bottle of wine, opened it and poured it over his head so he could celebrate with his beloved Bronx Bombers. But just as animated as Bob would get, people who knew him, knew him to be a really gentle man, with a little bit of fire and a certain bit of innocence mixed into his personality.

Just as he was devoted to his favorite teams, Bob was a hundred times more devoted to his family. He constantly talked of get-togethers with his girls, of taking his grandkids to his shop Christmas parties and times spent at their camp in the summer. He was very proud of his son, who a couple years ago began his career as a police officer in North Carolina, and he and I got to compare notes about our sons, when my son began training at the police academy in Virginia.

Bob loved his cars, he loved Italian food, especially tripe and he was devoted to friends. About seven plus years ago, he was part of our group who weekly visited a friend stricken with cancer, and after that friend passed away, it was Bob who said we have to keep meeting once a week in memory of John, and that was the beginning of our coffee club which has met regularly for the better part of the past seven-plus years.

Everyone who knew Bob loved him. He was someone who loved being with friends, and he appreciated his friends very much. He spoke of people he hung around with in high school, who are scattered across the country, whom he still had contact with up until his recent passing, and you could see how much his friends meant to him by the way he lit up when talking about hearing from them.

Every year at Christmastime, my wife and I host a holiday open house for friends, and have done so for a number of years. Bob couldn’t ever wait to RSVP that he’d be coming. He was usually one of the first to arrive, and he was always asking my wife for the recipes of some of the cookies or other refreshments we might be serving that day.

As I’m sure everyone feels about their loved ones, I’ve lost what I consider way too many family and friends. I cherish the memories which now fill the empty chairs of family dinner tables at holiday and birthday times, and the empty seats of our coffee club meeting places, and as my family and circle of friends get smaller, I try very hard (though I sometimes fail) to keep other things in perspective and put those lost in my life far above the things that, in the giant scheme of things, don’t hold a candle to the really important things.

So as the streets of heaven just got a bit more crowded with the addition of someone whom I was proud to call friend, I can recall a saying that I’ve used much in my life reading, “Do not cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Though I’m saddened by his passing, I do not cry for Bob’s life being over, I am smiling because it happened, and I’m sure that right now, Bob is kibitzing with his Maker, trying to get his beloved Yankees just one more World Series championship.

Rest in peace, Bullet!