Monday, January 9, 2012
Oh, he's alive and well, in good health and about seven weeks from his 87th birthday. We spent about 45 minutes on the phone tonight.
It's what Peter has been doing that makes my heart a bit heavy. He's been giving away his books.
He's a practical sort of fellow. (He's a South African-born British-American, if that tells you anything.) His thinking is, when he dies he wants his prized possessions to go to people he loves and who will treasure them and take care of them. So, he's giving them away now.
When I last saw Peter -- 10 days ago -- he asked me to go through his bookshelves and pick out whatever I wanted.That was like winning the lottery. Reading is a love of mine.
I took Peter's books with mixed feelings and I told him so. He just laughed.
I came back to Knoxville with Peter's books three times last year: in June, after Thanksgiving and after Christmas.
Peter is actually doing something brave and wise -- and full of hope. He is preparing to meet God and is getting his affairs in order. "When I go to heaven, I can't take my books with me," he told me tonight.
None of us know the day of our death but it behooves us to count our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom, as the psalmist said. I'm learning through all this that we should always be living with an eye toward eternity.
But still. The selfish part of me wants Peter around for a long, long time.
I met Peter in the fall of 1999 while at college. We connected through a community church in Stonybrook, NY. I forget exactly how it happened but we became friends immediately. Once a week or so, Peter would meet me and the guy I was dating at Friendly's, the Northeast's version of IHOP. We would talk life, love, sacrifice and what it meant to live them out in a cross-cultural context.
My friendship with Peter has deepened through the years. After I moved to Knoxville in 2003, we stayed in touch through letters, emails and phone calls. Trips to see my family in New York City always include a visit with Peter.
These days, Peter and I talk about politics, books, current events, my future husband, life lessons we're learning, adventures, and his beloved wife Jane who died in the 1990s. We also talk about the goodness, faithfulness and sovereignty of our great God, especially in the midst of uncertainties.
And we like to eat together -- definitely the mark of a good friendship :)
We usually end up at the Red Barn, one of his favorite restaurants in Connecticut. That's where the above picture was taken in December.
Tonight, Proverbs 27:17 comes to mind: "As iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another."
Peter has been this for me. I pray I have done the same for him.