You will always re- member where you were and what you were doing when certain events occur in your life. The death of my friend, Dr. Gene May, is one of those events.
Thursday afternoon. I was at my computer working on inventory entries. The phone rang. A strained and slightly frantic voice was on the line. Though I had performed the standard greeting informing they had called Dr. Bland’s office, the voice requested verification of my identity, which was provided. The voice identified himself as a friend of Gene’s and stated ‘Pierre I have been given the sad task of informing you Gene May died last night. I am sorry for your loss. Good bye.“
Instinctively, I knew the news was true. Gene was many wonderful things, among them efficient and at times, a bit pedantic. After all, he was a psychologist and college professor. The call fit the pattern. My mind flashed back to earlier in the week.
Monday afternoon. I received a phone call from Gene. “Let’s go out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. My treat. “May 1st was his birthday. I had not forgotten and did give him a birthday call. What I didn’t do was make his usual gift, a homemade key lime pie. I was so caught up in the opening of the clinic, I neglected our tradition, but promised to make good on it the following weekend. He gave me his enthusiastic approval and stated “I can’t wait!”
Over dinner we covered our usual points of conversation: common acquaintances , politics, and how things were going. He expressed concerns over my tendency to burn the candle at both ends, providing sound advice and a bit of counseling on how I was dealing with my divorce eight months ago. As dinner progressed and the conversation focused on him, Gene made a prophetic comment.
He lived in a retirement village with his beloved cat Dash I gave him 16 years ago. Gene was the antithesis of the typical resident. He was independent and very active. I always suspected he liked living there but did not love it; it was a cautionary action due to some health issues. When I asked ‘how was life at the village?’ his response was, “They are dropping like flies!’ We both chuckled and continued our dinner.
Wednesday afternoon was the last time I saw my friend. Since I opened, Gene dropped by the clinic at least once a week. I told him he was always welcome and he took it to heart. His last visit was to give me a copy of a photo of the two of us taken at my opening party. As we exchanged goodbyes, I reminded him a pie was coming this weekend. He remembered and smiled. For whatever reason, I stood in the window and watched him drive away.
As I returned to reality, a strange feeling came over me: it seemed all emotion drained from my body as tears began to flow down my face. Then as if on cue, the phone rang, a new client walked in, and a delivery truck arrived. I had received news that caused my world to stop, but the rest of the world just kept on going as if nothing had happened. I pulled myself together and carried on.
Though he is gone, he certainly will never be forgotten. I am a better person because Dr. Eugene Porter May was my friend. Even at the age of 83, he has gone too soon.
So what now? To the kitchen to make that key lime pie. I have a promise to keep.