What You Don't Say Can Be Very Important



I don't particularly look forward to dying, except for one thing: It will give me a chance to do some things I should have done a long time ago.

It was a friend of mine who started me thinking about that. His name was Rick. The two of us used to spend an occasional Saturday hiking the trails and canyons along the Rim. Rick particularly loved the quiet canyons over by Sedona, places I had never hiked.

I felt I owed Rick a thank-you for having shown me some beautiful country and I thanked him for it one day. I happened to mention the fact that we often learn from friends and that I had learned a lot from a friend I'd had back in high school. His name was Richie Shellman and he'd had a great deal to do with some of the things I still enjoy, particularly where music and books are concerned.

"Did you ever thank him?" Rick asked.

I was floored. The thought had never occurred to me. The more I thought about it as I drove home that day, the more I realized that I hadn't said "thank you" for a lot of good things in my life. I made up my mind I was going to try to correct that.

It took me about two weeks to locate Richie Shellman. I had not heard from him since 1958. At that time he was a pharmacist, married but without any children, and working at the Court Drug Store where he and I had polished off a large number of cokes and milkshakes in our teens.

I eventually contacted Richie by phone. Now a widower, he was working in a small church in Bethlehem, Conn. His wife died many years earlier after a long, painful illness.

Richie had a new profession. He wasn't called Richie any more. He was now Father Richard. He was a Catholic priest.

I was, of course, stunned. Even as kids in our teens I had been able to see a certain goodness in Richie, but it isn't every day that one's best friend takes up the cloth in his 30s, after being married and going through college to become a pharmacist.

I said "thank you," of course, and I felt much better for doing so. We've stayed in touch since then, which is great. I've also searched out several other people and said "thank you," but (I suppose you can guess what's coming) it was too late to say it to some of them.

So, when the inevitable happens I have something to look forward to. The very first thing I am going to do, provided I make the cut, is tell a certain Elizabeth Mary Garrett that she was the best mother who ever lived.

I sort of forgot to do that when I had the chance down here on Earth.

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