Sometimes a day afield literally turns golden. My best friend, Frank, and I used to encounter them often—while ambling across a summer prairie thick with swaying bluestem, or walking through an autumn woods sharp with the heady fragrance of old leaves and damp humus.
Yet most of the time Frank and I shared these golden moments as we waded for smallmouth bass along a little rural creek.
Intent on fishing, our days together a’stream always passed faster than we realized. We were both equally mesmerized by the unfolding succession of pools and riffles, and absorbed in listening to those whispered secrets eternally told by water pouring over stones.
Whatever the cause, we predictably failed to notice as the sun began slowly sidling off to the west. Indeed, as we worked our way upstream, the golden moment typically caught us unawares—a sudden infusion of yellow-bronze light which stopped us in our tracks. Gold light which made us look up, around…to eventually grin at one another and shake our heads in delight, because at such times words are simply no good. Some things are best acknowledged by the heart.
Frank and I knew each other’s heart.
My heart is now breaking, because I lost my old pal this morning, an hour or so before dawn.
Frank’s daughter, who lives in another city a two-hour drive away, called just before 5:00 a.m. to say she’d been notified her father’s health had taken a turn for the worse. I was on the road within fifteen minutes and at his bedside a half-hour later.
The call wasn’t unexpected. Frank had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for a number of years. About a year and a half ago he had to move from his home into an extended care facility. Everyone, including Frank, knew this moment was coming.
Since sufficiently recovering from whatever recently nailed me that I no longer worried about being an infectious danger, I’ve been making daily visits. Frank, who was several decades my senior, has been my best friend for thirty years. I could always count on him for anything, in any situation—a living example of that verse in Proverbs about a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Now, I wanted to do whatever I could for him.
As his final minutes ticked softly away, I sat by my best friend’s side, held his hand, patted his shoulder, and told him how much I’d enjoyed our adventures and times together, how I treasured his friendship, what a blessing he’d been, and how I loved him. I also reassured him that I’d stay right by his side and see to things until his daughter arrived, that I’d make sure she was given the news gently, and that I would do whatever I could to ease her burden throughout the coming hours.
That’s what best friends do for one another—stand behind, beside, in front, or in place, to the best of their abilities. Frank would have done the same for me. And best friends know—promises made are promises kept.
Afterwards, I sat and waited in that quiet room, with my friend, keeping vigil at the window for his daughter’s arrival. Night turned gently into day. A few robins arrived and begin inspecting the lawn between the building and the parking lot.
Late this afternoon, I watched last of this very same day dwindle unspectacularly in the west. Clouds banded most of the sky; there was no real color. I picked up my camera and stepped out, onto the deck, hoping to catch a shot of the geese I knew would be flying upstream, winging their way home.
In an instant, the light changed. The grayness gave way to a burst of light—a sudden yellow-bronze luminescence that danced atop the pool, sparkled in the riffle, glowed through trees on the island across from the cottage.
A sorely needed and much appreciated moment—a golden gift of friendship I'll never forget.