I lost a friend yesterday after a brave contest with a debilitating disease. He was not my oldest friend, either in age or in the length of time we had been friends, but Jerry McLeese was a special friend because he and I were the same in so many ways and so different in others. I learned a lot from him and I hope I had something to contribute to him in the three years we shared our life stories with each other.
Perhaps the most important thing he taught me was that only if you have faith, however you define it, can you expect to lead a life well-lived. He and Sybil lived such a life and there is much more to be said about that, which can come later. For now, I want to share with you one incident that happened just days after Carole and I moved across the hall from the McLeeses.
I had parked our car in the garage of our condo building when I was hailed by a resident. “Aren’t you the folks who bought the apartment across from the McLeeses?”
I admitted that we were.
“Well,” he said, “Welcome.” Then he looked me over as if assessing whether I qualified as a good neighbor. Finally, he said, “Well, you might be a very nice man, but Jerry is a saint.”
It was the first inkling that there was something special – if not necessarily saintly – about my new neighbor. Over the all too brief time we spent together, I learned what it was that made him special. It was his determination and commitment to reach out to those of all religions, as well as those who have no stated belief, in an all-consuming effort to establish trust and respect. His timing was impeccable. We are in short supply of both these days.
Now, that becomes his legacy.