Before eating together at the senior center, we face the flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance and then say a prayer. In the prayer, we speak of ourselves as God's elder children.
One of the first seniors to befriend me was Henry. He was the principal at the high school for many years. His wife passed away ten years ago. He has had a lady friend who lost her husband around the same time his wife died. They became travel companions, taking trips together and making some amazing booklets of photos and mementos of the trips.
When Henry and his wife married, I was six years old. He and I laughed that I could have been their flower girl. One day Henry and I toasted his wife with our decaf coffee and he told me all about her. It would have been her birthday. It was a beautiful afternoon of stories of love and sorrows.
When I was feeling low, Henry would sense it. He would stoop down and whisper "God bless you" or "You are doing great".
I had lots of things in common with Henry. We both loved coffee, and would drink decaf weaker than most people make it. We loved to compare books and I would search through all his books. We talked about our travels, our children, our success stories and our disappointments. For a man in a small town, Henry did not have a small mind. He accepted people and was interested in them.
Henry passed away in a rehab facility in a nearby city. The week before he died he told me on the phone that he was getting well and was looking forward to our next visit when he got home. He did not realize that he was really going home.
Some friends pass through our lives for a short time. Henry's gentle, intelligent nature calmed me and encouraged me during some dark times. In our last conversation I ended the phone call by telling him how much I cared about him, and he replied "I feel the same way, sweetheart". Good bye, dear friend.