Saying goodbye

Posted 7/29/17

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about friendships this week. It’s hard to understand the importance of true friends when we are younger. Life is just beginning, and we invest our time and …

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Saying goodbye


I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about friendships this week. It’s hard to understand the importance of true friends when we are younger. Life is just beginning, and we invest our time and energy finding our way. We have friends but often don’t have the wisdom to appreciate them.

I focused much of my youth on making money, building a home and buying things. Sometimes, I took my friends for granted. While material things are important, they are just that. Things.

Many friends appear when you least expect them. And before long, you can’t imagine life without them. It’s the experience of navigating life with people you can count on that forms the rich relationships that are hard to describe with words.

Our friend, Louis Williams, is one friend who appeared at low tide in our lives. Jilda was undergoing monthly treatments at an infusion center.

The big green faux leather recliners looked sad in the florescent glow of the treatment room. I went with her to each appointment. For hours, I sat beside her while medicine as thick as syrup dripped through tubes at a snail’s pace. The chairs around the room were filled with others receiving treatments. It was not a happy place — until Louis clicked in on his cane.

He’d been coming to the treatment room for years, and he never met a stranger. He brought a little non-artificial light into the space and into the lives of those gathered there.

Jilda, Louis and I became instant friends. She is quick to say that the best part of those three years was friending Louis. He spent Thanksgiving with us a few times. He also became the star of our annual fish fry here at our house. He invited us into his home for lunch. We spent most of the time walking around and looking at the pictures hanging on his wall and listening to their stories.

I wrote about Louis a while back when his health began to fail him. A couple of months ago, he went into hospice. Each week Jilda and I drove to town to visit with him. At first, he seemed fine and talked about going home in the days ahead. His caregiver nephew walked us out one day after a visit and told us that Louis would not be going back home. He did not have to tell us. The next few times we visited, he was unresponsive.

When we visited at the first of July, he was sitting up in bed sipping tea and crunching the ice between his teeth. He had a half dozen friends with him and he was holding court. It wasn’t until later that we realized that was Louis’ way of saying goodbye.

Last Saturday, Jilda and I drove to Birmingham for a visit. We sat for a while and held a one-sided conversation. Then we said our goodbyes.

This past Sunday was routine for us. We read two Sunday papers as we sipped coffee and listened to cello music on the stereo. It was a good start to a Sunday.

After our walk, Jilda decided to cut a watermelon we’d bought the day before. We called our great nephew Jordan, who loves watermelon.

As Jilda cut the melon, I sat at the table and observed. I felt the phone buzz in my pocket. Pulling it out, I saw that I had a new email.

Touching the screen, there was new message from Louis' friend James. The note said that Louis died this morning.

I waited until the kids had watermelon and went back home before telling Jilda the news. Tears filled her eyes, and she said, “I knew it would be today. I'm not sure how I knew, but I did.”

A while back when Louis was stronger, Jilda talked to him every day. Before hanging up, she always said, “I love you, Louis.” He responded, "I love you more." We will miss our friend.

RIP Louis.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book,” Life Goes On,” is available on You can contact him via email at