They often say that the good guys get to leave first when it comes to dying. In that case, don’t overstay your time here if you can help it. Just the other day I received news that Kate, an old friend, had passed away after a lengthy illness. Age and declining health had finally caught up with this dear old lady who was the personification of kindness, grace and devotion. Her life was a picture of all that is both right and wrong about the world when it comes to daily life. Right in the sense that people recognized her as a virtuous person who never shied away from helping anyone in need, especially the likes of me. But life for her was never, for all her good deeds, a trippingly rewarding experience. Issues within her extended family always seemed to get an especially positive response from this compassionate matriarch who had a special soft spot and sympathetic ear for those struggling with life. While her passing was not unexpected, what happened forty-eight hours later was. My brother phoned to inform me that Bob, her son and boyhood pal of ours, had suddenly died in his sleep from a massive heart attack. Talk about piling on the woe. Here is a family ready to say good-bye to Granny and, all of a sudden, they are now faced with an even deeper loss. Over the past couple of days, Bob’s unfortunate and tragic death has caused me to do some serious reflecting on his influence on my life. While friendships usually don’t last a lifetime, this one did because we had so much in common. Bob, six years my senior, introduced my brother and me to the world of televised sports in the late fifties. Turning up at his house on a Friday evening, just up the street, to watch Joe Kapp and the BC Lions hammer the Calgary Stampeders, or Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers triumph over Johnny Unitas and the Colts was a treat we always enjoyed. If we were around Saturday morning, we usually took in All-Star Wrestling with Ron Maurier. So not to become couch potatoes before our time, Bob, Alec and I would find time to play a game of touch football out in one of a number of fields on his dad’s farm. Bob was the quarterback, punter, and ref while my brother and I ran routes against each other. What moments of pure joy as we contended for local football supremacy in a field full of cow pies and Mt. Baker looming in the background. Years later, I, like Bob and my dad, went into teaching, became a Christian, got married, raised a family, and drifted apart. Whenever we got together, it would be often to attend a baseball game at Nat Bailey or simply reminisce about those good old days of summer when Bob, Richard (his foster brother), and I helped Dave (his father) paint the barn, do the chores, and find so many things to amuse us before stepping out as men looking for bigger quests. There were things that happened that summer before I left for university, never to return again as anybody other than a casual friend of the family. Bob was moving away; I had a girlfriend; and the old rural neighborhood and all its fixtures seemed to be disappearing. The bush we played in as kids, the swimming hole we cooled off in on a hot summer’s afternoon, and the trees we climbed to build tree forts were all gone. You could now travel into the big city along freeways that cut travel in half. Instead of watching the game on television, we could now watch it live at a stadium or even join a local team to live out our aspirations. We were now free to leave the playing fields of Otter Road and all its downhome, boyhood charm and move into the great beyond called manhood and all its intriguing uncertainties. From what I can make out, Bob, like myself and Alec, passed that challenge with a few bumps here and there. While our general appetite for life never changed, we became individuals who started to focus on more important things like God, family, career, learning, and travel. Thank you, Bob, for getting me started on this enriched journey to eternity. Yes, I am very sad at losing you because of the many young people who will no longer be affected by your musical ways and as a supply teacher in the classroom, but I am glad that the good work God has started in you will continue on to completion.