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Doug Creamer column: My best friend

By Doug Creamer

I am very blessed to have a number of very good friends. I invest time to build friendships. When my phone rang a few weeks ago and I heard the voice of my best friend’s wife, I knew what she was calling to tell me. I could hear the news in her voice. My best friend had passed away.

Twenty-four years ago, I changed jobs in the middle of a school year. Elkin High School offered me an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. My first day felt very overwhelming. When lunch time rolled around, I saw Jay Collins in the hallway and asked where he ate lunch. He said he ate in his room, and I asked if I could join him. He invited me in. Thus began one of the best friendships in my lifetime.

We ate lunch every day in his room. We talked about everything. There was no subject off limits. We talked about problems we were dealing with in every area of our lives. We talked about our backgrounds. We helped each other through some rough patches. We always laughed.

If you saw the two of us walking down the hall together, you’d better look out: we were probably up to something. We kidnapped a colleague’s chair and left ransom notes. We turned another colleague’s desk 180 degrees and made sure everything was perfectly in place so the next day she wouldn’t notice and would bang her knees when she sat down. We didn’t do anything cruel, just fun stuff that kept everyone laughing.

Jay and his wife live on a beautiful piece of land outside of Sparta. I don’t know of any place on earth where the peace of God is more tangible than sitting on their porch or walking along the stream that cuts through their property. A couple of years into our friendship he invited me up one summer day. You drive to the edge of nowhere, go another couple of miles and you are there. The trip up became an annual event that I looked forward to like Christmas day.

My friendship with Jay grew to include his wife and their son. I ate many meals at their home filled with laughter. We also talked about deep personal issues and problems we faced. We shared the joys and sorrows of life. No topics seemed off limits. All topics were handled with love and concern for the best outcome for each other.

One thing I will miss is the complete acceptance I felt. We never judged each other. We knew each other’s secrets and they were safe. We walked and talked with each other through difficult times, both past and present. We always listened to each other and offered love-filled advice. Our different political opinions never touched the friendship. We were always there for each other, no matter what the circumstance.

When I sit and think about it, what I miss the most is just talking to my best friend. We got together when we could, but sometimes a year passed between visits. The conversation would pick right up as if we had eaten lunch together the day before. The conversation always flowed easily. It was filled with laughter. There was never a dull moment when we were together.

After Jay retired, he took up woodturning and became quite good at it. I have a number of his pieces. The most special piece is the one he decided we would make together. He taught me some simple techniques and we worked on the piece until supper. A few days later it arrived in the mail, complete with our names and the date stamped into the bottom.

It’s been a while since I last saw Jay. Parkinson’s stole him from us all too early in life. It is hard to find and make a good friend in life, but it is especially hard to give up your best friend. I can still hear his laugh. I can see the twinkle in his eye when we were up to something. I can feel the love that his family and I share. I remember his last words as I headed out the door to go home from Sparta, “Be careful going down the mountain. Be safe.”

I want to encourage you to treasure your good friends. We are quickly approaching the holiday season. COVID has done so much to keep us apart; find a way to connect, not only with your family, but with your friends, too. Share a laugh, swap a few stories, and treasure each moment. Personally, I can’t wait to get to heaven and see Jay’s workshop, to hear him laugh, and to catch up on what’s been going on.

Contact Doug Creamer at PO Box 777, Faith, NC 28041 or doug@dougcreamer.com .

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