When friends leave us

When friends leave us

It has been a while since my last post and though I’ve felt a dose of writer’s block lately, my wife has encouraged me to keep posting. “But do so with less formality,” she insists. “Loosen up and just write what’s on your heart.”

I know her advice is sound, and so with her words in my ear, I’ll attempt to “loosen up” and post more often, hoping to do so in a more conversational way.

Thankfully, one of the beautiful gifts writing affords is its ability to give shape to our feelings and help us make peace with troubling emotions.  For me writing is a form of prayer that works its way from my heart through my fingers.

So here is what is on my heart at the moment:


Jim Gallagher looks long at the the body of friend and Christian brother Earl Key in 2010. Less than seven years later, Jim would join Earl in death.

 Two friends and Christian brothers, Jim Gallagher and Larry French, left this world late last year and their deaths continue to trouble me, mostly because I know I could have been a better friend to both.

Larry French


Larry in his mid twenties.


Larry had broad shoulders, large hands, etched and scarred with deep, dark cracks from years of turning wrenches.  He was a big bear with a soft heart, and someone who could spin a tale with the best, often blurring the facts for the sake of the story.  He was my brother-in-law for many years and early in life we were as close as brothers.  I still remember Larry saying, after helping somebody financially, “I take what I need and give what I can.”  For a mechanic who turned wrenches and drove trucks for a living, this was and remains a profound declaration.  But then Larry Dee always possessed a sort of common man’s junkyard wisdom.

Happy-go-lucky on the surface, Larry laughed easily, much like his father.  But also like his father, cared genuinely for others.  What most never saw were the deep wounds he could never escape or completely hide.   Perhaps the deepest was being separated from his three children after his wife left and took the family away decades ago.  For a man who was all about family, the separation nearly killed him.  Even more tragic is his children never knew him or witnessed the gentle giant when he broke down and wept when away from the eyes of the world.   Thankfully, Larry found love again with Sherry, which made his road through life less painful.

I didn’t realize I would miss Larry as much as I do, I guess because we were not as close the past 20 years as we once were.  That was my fault more than his, and it saddens me I didn’t to make more of an attempt to reconcile earlier.  We did draw closer last year when Larry approached me and we apologized to each other.  For that encounter I am forever grateful.

Jim Gallagher


Jim in 2010

I was drawn to Jim Gallagher the first day I met him, the way one feels compassion for a stray or rescued animal, kicked around by life and wearing the scars of too many bad decisions.  He tried to project a tough guy from Philly facade, but all one had to do is listen to him pray to know the tender heart of the invisible person.  Jim, like most of us, had his demons.  One was alcohol, the one that eventually took his life.  On the surface, he seemed able to hold this enemy at bay until his wife, Patty, a sweet, sweet woman with an infectious laugh, died rather suddenly.





She was his joy, his strength, and partner in both fighting his addiction (they met in AA) and in his walk of Christian faith.   Jim’s life spiraled immediately after Patty died and within six months his life was also over.


I failed Jim.  I had intended on several occasions to call him after Patty’s death, but didn’t. Sure, I wrote facebook posts, but such are poor and impersonal substitutes for a phone call or a letter.  I even wrote myself a reminder on a notebook I was using during a Bible class and circled it, yet still allowed the distractions of the week to keep me from calling Jim…until it was too late.

Both Larry and Jim experienced much joy in this life, but sorrow was never far away.

None of us truly or completely know what’s on the other side of this life.   Are Larry, Jim and Patty finally at peace?   Will I see them again?  Only our Creator knows.  But for now, I miss them and wish I could wrap my arms around each and tell them again how much I love and appreciate them and ask their forgiveness for not being a better friend.

But I suspect they know that.


7 thoughts on “When friends leave us

  1. Very timely story for me. My best friend just passed yesterday morning. He called me two weeks ago and said his chemo was experimental on new cancer invasion. Said if it didn’t work he had two weeks. And then he wanted to talk about how I was. Great friend and sorrowful now….but no regrets.

  2. I truly enjoyed your post. There are many whom have passed away that I would love to call or perhaps go visit, however I can not. While things seem sad remember, God is good and will see us through. He has guided me and he is guiding you as well. Thank your wife too, for telling you to let your hair down too. It becomes you!

  3. Thanks for another good post. I guess, because of my age, I seem to know a lot of people dealing with cancer now. Some friends have died and I miss them. My sister died this past summer. She was only 59 and had a very fast growing and aggressive cancer. I still find it hard to believe she’s gone. I look forward to seeing friends and relatives who’ve died again. There are a lot of things that I don’t understand about the afterlife, but I trust I will see my sister and parents again.

  4. The night before Patty & Jim left Bowling Green to move back to California, she said to us, “Well, if I don’t see you again here, I’ll see you in heaven.” We bought her washing machine and dryer that night and, surprisingly-after all this time, it still works! I think of Patty and her laugh from time to time when I’m in the laundry room. She was quite a gal.

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