At the end of the Summer of 1996, I decided to swallow my pride and bury the hatchet with my only close friend. We had not spoken to each other for four months. In mid-afternoon on Sunday, I pulled up to his apartment complex and began walking across the courtyard, to invite him to talk or to a movie. As I approached the breezeway below his apartment, I saw an orange stretcher and several people standing around it. I automatically assumed that the old woman with the crazy old cat on the ground floor had died. As I went around them to head up the stairs, a young man looked at me and said, "Did you know Jay?" My world slammed to a halt! I began to wail at high volume. He invited me in for a glass of water and gave me a handkerchief. After they came down with my friend's body and left, I came back outside. Pain continued to rip out of me for a half hour or 45 minutes.
A police officer was patiently waiting by his laptop to talk with me, before he could finally leave the scene. He informed me that no one had heard from Jay since the previous weekend. Finally, early this morning, someone from the pizza delivery shop where he worked, came to the apartment, and heard Jay's dog crying and barking wildly inside. The police arrived and found him. They had been searching for me all day, because my phone number was the only contact they found in the entire apartment. This was very strange, since Jay had many friends. The officer told me that no one could stand to be in the apartment and that, the futon that he laid dead on for several days or more, was still on the bedroom floor. I explained that I had dealt with death before and that I would remove it.
I climbed the stairs and went into the empty apartment. The smell was horrible and many flies buzzed at the windows as I quickly opened them. However, as soon as I had entered, there was an overwhelming peace that filled my soul, like nothing I had ever known. I somehow knew that there were no mistakes, and that God had taken my beloved friend. I picked up the futon and got out.
Jay was in his last year of undergraduate school and was just about to start his student teaching. He wanted to teach 8th grade geography. He wasn't perfect. In fact, he had a thing for bad girls. He would try to rescue them, and was usually unsuccessful. While all the others saw his physical death as so tragic --- to this day, I have never questioned why God took him. It seems to be one of the first things that I absolutely accepted. What is important is that, while he was here, he loved like few people I had ever known and he gave me a tremendous opportunity to see real love in action.
Jay, like me, was the child of alcoholics. At some point, his parents divorced and both neglected him. Jay fit the alcoholic family role of the Lost Child. He had never known his half-brother, who was fifteen years older, yet they had just met for the first time to begin a relationship. Jay had worked A Course in Miracles for over five years, and was a very loving person. From the first night I met him in a meeting, he had tried to be emotionally available to me. He was a true friend. When I called his next of kin, his new stepmother told me she was flying in from Florida and asked me to be in charge of the arrangements.
Later that night, I cried deeply as I intuitively sensed that God had rolled out the red carpet and said: "So, you want to be a minister? Then bury your friend!"