Gary. It’s been not even 12 hours since you have passed. And the thought of you leaves me sad, and leaves me crying, and leaves me where you always left me, laughing and wishing, and hoping, and praying.
Gary. I remember meeting you in front of a Starbucks, my local Ladera Starbucks, years ago. Has it been years? Where has the time flown? You and I met, I am not sure how, or why, but of course, because we loved to talk, and laugh, and share, and be to one another how I feel like were supposed to be on this earth.
You held court on that front porch of that coffee shop steps. You were, and will always be to me the mayor of my Starbucks.
Gary. You were such a man. You would open all the doors, you would watch Samantha so I could go to the bathroom, you would buy my coffee, and order her cookies, and you would make my day. Gary. I already miss you so much.
Gary, you were a friend to me in a season where my friends were all far away. I was a new mom, and my days were long, and I was looking for friendship, and company, chatter, and companionship. You were all those things to me, and so much more, and gosh, I just want to say thank you.
I think for a year we probably saw each other almost daily. I was running outside like a wild woman in that season, and I would eat breakfast and catch a coffee after my run. I would always hope I didn’t miss you. You were on a schedule, and so was I.
If our days met, and they mostly did, I would love to see your smile, and your face, and hear one of your stories for the day. You would love to tell me about the weather, and it was such a welcomed relief, it was so neutral and safe for both of us. You loved this gal on channel nine, and she was always wrong about the weather. We would laugh, and joke, because wasn’t it always warm and sunny in Ladera Ranch? Of course it was.
You would greet my daughter Sam with the biggest grin, and she came to love you. She is a hard sell, so it meant a lot. I would sit with you sometimes out front, or I would meet friends out by the fountain in the back. Either way, you or I would always make a point to say hi, and bye, we were a stopping point in each other’s days.
You were encouraging, and loving, and gosh, we disagreed on pretty much everything when it came to religion and politics, but I didn’t really care, I loved you that much. See, here is the thing; we all loved you that much. We will always love you that much.
Today, I told Samantha you died. I mean, it doesn’t get more real than that. And all she kept saying, and all she kept wishing is that you didn’t die. She kept asking why you had to, and why you wanted too, and I reminded her, I didn’t think that you did.
Who ever does? Death is so brutal, and so terminal, and so final in the eyes of this world. It’s scary, and unsure, and daunting. I remember seeing that sense of it all in your eyes in December. Who the hell wants to die?
And yet, this morning, your precious Taylor, the one I have always heard about, and loved to hear about texted me. It caught me so off guard. She said you passed last night. Gosh darn-it Gary, this wasn’t the way I wanted it to end. And maybe you didn’t too. I didn’t want cancer to attack your body, and your bones, and take you out.
Dammit. You were the healthiest man I knew at your age. You walked up hill back and forth every darn day to claim your office spot on the front porch of that coffee shop. And yet, it’s a brutal and bad disease, and some how, you caught it. I am so sorry for that. This world is just so unpredictable like that.
All I could do when she texted me was catch my breath. In, and out, and in and out I went. And yet, there was this little caveat, the hope of so many prayers. You came to know my Jesus at the end. Gosh darn-it Gary, at the very end, you accepted my best friend.
Can I tell you I believe in the base of my heart, and the center of my foundation there is no better place than you to be tonight than with my best friend? Jesus. Gosh, it’s so good. He is so good. I can just imagine the place you are, the hope that you have, the feelings of friendship and a permanent sense of family you now have. Gary, it doesn’t get better than where you are, and whom you are with. You’re in good hands. I know this.
And I can envision, and hope and pray that in my humanness, in my imagination of what heaven is like, you’re at some Starbucks, or the heaven equivalent, and you have the front table. That it’s all feeling new, because you’re a new man. That you’re worshipping, because He is worthy, and you now know that for sure. And all I can think about is the joy you must feel now.
So today, on this gorgeous, glorious Saturday, on February 6, 2016, a day I know that you would have loved to have stopped out front and gave us a wave, and given my girls a hug, and said hello, I had to face that table, your table. I had to walk through those doors, your doors, they will always be yours, and stand in line, and order my drinks, and sit with tears flowing down my face. And today, I sat and I sipped that coffee inside, and thought about your presence outside.
I thought about your front table, and your front space, and those front chairs, and how they will never ever be replaced. You will never be replaced.
Gary, you have big shoes to fill. And I hope some days when I stop in to get a coffee, that I, and my little tribe can take your place. I hope as the years go on, and I get older and my girls get bigger, I can sit at your front table and do justice to how you held court in front of that coffee shop. I hope to live into your legacy of love, and laughter, story telling and ridiculous joke sharing, and be to others what you were to me, a gosh darn, good friend.
We will miss you Gary, each and every day that we grab that cup of coffee, and forever on. Thank you for loving each and every one of us so darn well.