One Last Goodbye

Irene Richardson Shuck


When you think about life most of us let our thoughts think about death.  We let ourselves think about what we will have accomplished by the time we are old.  I know I have thought about my future that way.  How my life will be, how many grand kids I’ll have.  Where I’ll travel to when I retire.  Will I decide to stay in the same house or down size etc. etc.

Last week we had received a phone call that my husband’s best friend from high school Johnny Phillips had died.  It was Friday night around 10:30 pm.  We just looked at each other in total disbelief.   They were very close friends ever since High School.  They watched each other grow up, marry and raise children.  They supported each others victories and defeats.  They were there for one another during the best and worst times of each of their lives.  They hunted together, golfed together and cheered on their favorite football team the Redskins together.   All of that came to a screeching halt last Friday night.  

I watched my husband go through every emotion possible this week.  In the last three years he has lost his Mother, Uncle and now his best friend.  His heart was heavy and so was mine. 

Now we had to face the viewing and funeral.  I personally have never been to a viewing.  The only service I had been to was a funeral.  Sure I’ve had people die in my life, but for the most part I never went to any of the services as I always wanted to remember them the way they were while they were alive.    For whatever reason, I knew I had to go to his viewing.  As much as everything within me resisted, my mind told me I had to be there.   I just thought I had to be there to support my husband in his grief.  The viewing was Wednesday evening five days after Johnny’s death.

Wednesday morning arrived all I could think about was the viewing later on that evening.    At the viewing I was going to see people I hadn’t seen in a very long time.  Including Johnny’s children who we hadn’t seen in eight years because of a divorce.  I was looking forward to that part.  His kids are a part of our family.  I was upset at not seeing them in such a long time.  I was angry that it took their fathers death for us to see them. 

When my husband and I walked into the funeral home, there already was a bunch of people there.  Immediately both of Johnny’s girls came to greet us.  It was so wonderful to see them.  We caught up on lost time and proceeded to mingle with everyone else that was there to say goodbye to Johnny one last time.  Johnny was an incredible human being.  He always had a smile on his face.  He always had the time to talk with you.  He also would do anything in his power to help a friend in need.  Johnny was not rich financially, he was rich in friends.  That was very clear to everyone there. 

They played a video of Johnny’s life, photos from his birth all the way to the present.  You could see people watching the video with a smile and tears streaming down their faces at the same time.  To know Johnny Phillips was to know true friendship and love.

During that night, I eventually had to go see Johnny.  I was afraid and my heart felt like it was breaking at the same time.  Here laid my husband’s best friend only 50 years old.   I stood there, wanting to pat his arm yet afraid to.   I forced myself to get closer.  I stood there, and finally I touched his arm.  I told Johnny how much we loved him and how much we’d miss him.  I told him, “I’ll see you later on ok?” I said goodbye.  I quickly composed myself yet again and went to go see my husband. 

On the way there, Johnny’s middle daughter Katie came up to me and she was crying.  Standing there trying to console her I asked her if she was ok.  She told me she hadn’t seen her Dad yet.  I asked her if she wanted to go see him and if so I would go with her if that’s what she wanted.  She said yes.  We slowly made it through the room to go see her dad.  Katie stood 5 feet from the casket and you can tell she was afraid to get closer.  I said it’s alright Katie I’m here.  We slowly walked up to her Dad.  Katie is only 15 years old.  The same age as my daughter.  I’m standing there trying to support Katie and at the same time memories are flooding through my mind.  Memories of Katie and her family with Johnny.  Memories of our kids playing together.  Thoughts of how is this little girl going to go through life without her Dad? 

That’s when Katie says, I don’t know who dressed my Dad but this is terrible, he would have never worn this.  Johnny was dressed in a sports jacket and dress shirt.  She started fixing the coat and shirt.  She said he should be wearing a T shirt and cutoff jeans.  All the while we are laughing, crying and hugging each other.  As we walked away, I let Katie know that no matter what we’re there for her.  Anytime she needs to talk just pick up the phone.  In my entire life I don’t think I have ever done anything harder than that in that moment of time. 

I now knew why I had to go to the viewing.  I had to be there to help Katie and Katie helped me say one last goodbye to Johnny.

If you have a friend or loved one in your life that you treasure and have not made contact with them in a long time pick up the phone and say hello.  Find out how they are doing.  Let them know how much they mean to you. 

Irene Richardson Shuck is the creator of positive affirmation gift cards you can carry with you.

She is also the owner of Crystal Forests and consults people on a regular basis.