While in Arkansas over the Christmas holiday, at church someone told me that my friend, Tracy, had died. He would only have been in his early fifties.
Tracy had an interesting religious pilgrimage. He was raised Jewish but experimented with Buddhism. He was finally converted through his sister's influence, a member of what is now the International Church of Christ. When I met Tracy, he was attending a "mainline" church.
Tracy was the first person to ever invite me to a Church of Christ. I met him at the bookstore where he was proprietor. I was too shy and intimidated to be interested in the larger assembly, so he invited me to a men's Bible study. I was almost persuaded to make the commitment that I knew was right according to the scriptures.
When the on-staff Evangelist got a hold of me, he threw so many scriptures at me that I ran out of excuses. So I was baptized. Tracy was always glad to have had a hand in my conversion. He would sometimes say that I was his victory. He was especially elated when I became a preacher.
The night of my baptism, Tracy and I walked through Wendy's drive-thru, my hair still wet. Then we went to my house where we did some improvisational jamming on the four track. We turned on the pre-recorded drum machine track. I played bass and Tracy played lead. I still have the tape.
Tracy was one of the few friends who attended my wedding. As I recall, the ushers weren't able to evenly divide the bride's side and groom's side of the auditorium because it would be woefully lopsided. There were far more people there for Gretchen. Tracy was special because he was there for me.
The night before the wedding, Tracy and I went out with several friends to see the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton. Since it was Tracy's fifth time to see it, he annoyed me by quoting all the good lines about a nanosecond before the actors. But it was my third time to see it.
Once I became "grounded" I was annoyed by Tracy's scripted Jewish prayers he silently said with lips moving during communion. Didn't he know that all that stuff was nailed to the cross? How little I understood back then about our Jewish roots in Christ.
After I moved from Arkansas, Tracy had a debilitating stroke. He had never married, so he moved to the coast to be near his family of origin. I got an address for him at an assisted living facility where he resided. I wrote to him and told him what he meant to me. I credited how far I had come to God's use of Tracy in my life. It was a long, flowery letter.
Tracy never answered. He was always a procrastinator. I got busy and never got around to writing again. I was a procrastinator as well. But now I wish I had tried again. I wish I had kept in touch. I wish I had looked him up and gone to see him. You just kind of think that you can put things off and people will still be there.
I console myself with the notion that Tracy must have read the letter. I like to think that he knew how important he was to me. But I wish I had five more minutes with him on this earth so I could say it and know that he heard. I wish I could hear him quote all the good lines from Batman and I wish I could listen to his Jewish prayers. I wish I could take care of what feels like unfinished business.
There are others in my life, without whom, I would not be where I am. I'm resolved to make it a point to tell them about their powerful influence.
If you have unfinished business, don't leave it unfinished. Perhaps it's time to be tolerant of a loved one's quirkiness, imagining the worse alternative of life without this person. If you need to forgive and reconcile, do it. If you need to say I love you, say it. Do it now before you run out of opportunities.