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A Good Friend of Mine

October 1, 2013

So is it better to have a few good friends, or a lot of acquaintances?

I got a call tonight from a long-time friend of mine.  She was actually my boss at one time.

When I first met Debbie, she was a district manager of the fortune 200 company I worked for, but shortly after that she took a demotion because she said it was the right thing to do, and consequently became my manager.

She was actually my manager for only about a year, until she was again being told to do things which she considered unethical.  At this point she decided to quit her job, take her life savings and move with her partner to a house on a lake about 200 miles away, and start her semi-retirement.  When she left, I was promoted to her previous position.

I learned a lot of things from Deb.  I guess it was like a coming-of-age for me, even though I was already 33 years old.  Debbie taught me about integrity, and about doing the right thing even though everyone else might be doing the opposite.  Those life-lessons ran deep.

The church my family used to attend kids camp at a location close to where Debbie had moved, and since my family was integrally involved in the children's ministry, we went along to this church camp year-after-year.  A few of those years I broke away to have lunch with Debbie and Marsha.

About a year ago Debbie and Marsha moved to the Southern California area to care for Deb's sick mother.  As fate would have it, this past summer my family moved my middle son to San Diego for a six-month internship at a company only a short distance from Debbie's house.  So we didn't have to travel with boxes of clothing, Debbie allowed us to ship a few boxes to her, for us to pick up there.

Two weeks ago tonight, Debbie sent me a note and asked me to call her.  After a little bit of phone tag, we finally were able to talk, and she told me that she had just learned that she had cancer.

Her cancer is a rare cancer that grows in the bone, and because of this, it often goes undetected for years, until it's too late for treatment.  She actually went to the doctor because of pain she was having, but the pain turned out to be fractured vertebrae and cracked ribs, due to the cancer.

What a terrible situation.  One thing we could laugh about was how good it was that she now lives in a state which has legalized medical marijuana, which in reality is the only good news she had.  I've called her several times since then, but usually she's been resting. If I was her, I don't think I'd be taking any phone calls at all.

Tonight Debbie called me.  She asked how my day was, and wouldn't continue until I explained my weak response.  It's just like her to always be thinking of others before she thinks of herself.  Finally she told me that her cancer was too advanced to try to treat it, and hospice has been called in.  She said she may have only a few days or a week, but she hoped to call me again. 

This really makes my day seem trivial.  Actually it makes my entire year seem trivial.  I remember working at that Fortune 200 company with Deb and thinking that her opinion of me mattered more than almost anyone else's opinion.  Today that's even more true.

Debbie is more religious than I am, now.  She told me that she hopes to see me on the other side, and I told her that I would love to see her on the other side, too.  To me, she's had a profound effect on my life, and she will continue to live on through me and the people whom I affect.  I know my own sons have benefitted from my relationship with her.  So much more would I rather that she stuck around so we could continue to have lunch together occasionally.  I'm afraid neither of us have the faith to believe that's going to happen.

I've taken to ending my conversations with Deb by saying, "I love you, Debbie" but honestly, words seem so cheap these days.  Jean and I have offered our hospitality to Marsha, Deb's partner, if she ever makes it back to Houston.  It seems like the least we could do.

So how much better are a few good friends than a lot of acquaintances?  I would take a friend like Debbie over a lot of mere acquaintances, any day.

Today, November 25th 2013, Debbie finished her journey here on Earth.  She is already greatly missed.

1,769 - 13 - 1 - US

Bruce Horst resides in Houston, Texas with his wife of 30+ years and his youngest son Nick.

His passion is making peoples' lives better through technology, as he works by day as a senior programmer and by night building his Internet of Things.

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