I lost a dear friend this weekend. Over the past few years, Charlie’s heart outgrew his body’s capacity to care for it, and his kind and loving thoughts for his wife Carolyn and his friends and family took over his brain’s memory.
We were unlikely friends. When we first started practicing law together he was a seasoned tax expert and wise counsel to his clients. I was a beginning litigator who hardly knew the location of the courthouse. Charlie owned a bass boat and spent his weekends hunting and fishing, while if I had a minute I escaped to a golf course. Although he started out in college as a democrat by the time we met he was a true conservative, and I was an idealistic yellow dog. Yet, there was something that drew us together, and the more I grew to know Charlie, I realized he was one of the most complex individuals I ever came across.
For over forty years we were close friends, played golf together, traveled with our sons to see baseball games in St. Louis and Boston, and shared the ups and downs of life. During the most difficult times of my life, Charlie’s friendship never wavered, if anything it intensified. I wish I could have been as good a friend to him and he was to me, but that’s not possible. For if you were Charlie’s friend, there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do.
Don’t get me wrong Charlie had his faults, we all do, but even his eccentricities were driven by love. I know his children and Carolyn could fill the room with crazy stories about Charlie, but each would include an element of love at its core.
This weekend I have tried to think what I would say to Charlie if we had one last conversation. I would have talked to him about the fun times we had together including the three days at Fenway Park with our boys, reminded him what a lucky man he was to have found a wife like Carolyn, laughed at the many bad shots we had on the golf course, and told him I loved him as he did every time I saw him.
Charlie never dwelled on the past. It would have been easy for him to talk about unfairness and the people who mistreated him, but that wasn’t my friend. He was always about the future, and in so doing he kept his friends looking forward as well.
Late in life Charlie had a hole in his chest where his heart surgery didn’t quite heal. He used to tell me he had a hole in his heart. All who loved Charlie have a hole in our heart today. But unlike his heart, our hearts will heal. Our memories of Charlie are the balm that will sooth the pain and heal our wounds.