We've had several recent contacts with old friends recently:
You may have noticed a link to Ryan's blog over in my sidebar. Ryan is a good friend from college and though we only live an hour or so from one another, we don't see each other as often as we ought to. Ryan had his 30th "birthday" back in February, but his wife, mother, and mother-in-law thew a surprise party for him on Sunday, March 5, just to make sure he would be extra surprised! We headed toward Saratoga, Indiana after church that day. After eating lunch at the Chicken Shack, we went to the Winchester Wal-Mart and got a card for Prinkey. Prinkey is definitely the only attorney I know for whom I can buy a Spider-Man birthday card with complete confidence that it will be 100% appreciated.
Chad & Kellie Shepherd (and Caleb and Sasha)
More college friends. Chad and I were roommates our freshman and sophomore years. Chad stood with me at my wedding and we're always thrilled to have an opportunity to be with he and his family. Kellie was Chad's high school sweetheart and is always a wonderful hostess. We were happy to be able to use up another one of Chad's extremely rare weekends off from work. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate for outdoor activities on Saturday, so we headed for Cincinnati to the mall...
While at the mall with the Shepherds, we were letting the kids play in one of the play areas there when I saw somebody I thought I recognized. "Couldn't be," I thought to myself. But then I remembered that I was in Cincinnati, the current residence of that "somebody." Just to be certain, before I made an idiot of myself, I followed his sightline to his daughter whom I recognized from pictures. It was my old youth minister from my high school days in Roachdale, Indiana, Lane Byrum! Once I was sure, I went over to him and put my hand on his shoulder which he quickly acknowledged, but it took him a moment to recognize me, too. Once I sat down next to him, he realized who I was and we had a few minutes to catch up a bit. I got to meet his daughter, Ava, and his wife, Sue. We'd only quite recently gotten back in touch through e-mail after years of not knowing where the other was. I was glad, too, because if I hadn't seen recent pictures and known that he was in the Cincinnati area, we might have just passed like ships in the night. I mean, what are the chances that we would be in Cincinnati at all, let alone at the same mall, and at the same time. And in a mall that size, we easily could have both been there and still not seen each other, especially since we weren't looking for each other! It's almost hard to believe, but it happened, and here's the picture to prove it!
Chad Canipe (1971-2006)
When I first heard that Chad was sick, I was concerned, but he was in good care at the hospital. "The doctors can fix him," I thought to myself. I said a silent prayer for Chad, but didn't think too much of it. When I got the news the next morning that he had died, I was stunned. Chad would have been 35 this May. They believe he died of a form of vasculitis called Wegener's disease. He seemed to be fine as much as two weeks before his death. The final post on his blog is now haunting because he describes in brief what killed him before he knew anything was seriously wrong.
He was doing everything right. He was seeking and following God's will. He had a full time job, plus he was doing that about which he was truly passionate: planting a church in his community. In a world full of deadbeat Dads and abusive, or just apathetic husbands, his wife and sons got one of the best guys, only to have him stolen away from them far too soon. "Why" quickly becomes one of those unanswerable questions.
Randy, Tim and I all rode together from the Indianapolis area. Pat also came up from Atlanta. We met in Cincinnati and attended the visitation together. The visitation was held at Saint Elizabeth's in Norwood, the home of Vineyard Central. It's an old Roman Catholic church, a holy space to be sure. Though it is in some disrepair, little effort is being made to hide its flaws. For Chad, they had U2 tunes playing. His friends and family were there to mourn together and to comfort one another. In many ways, that space, that night -- was very much like Chad: a holy space; imperfect, but admittedly so; surrounded by good friends and family -- filled by an almost tangible presence of God Himself. His physical body was visible there, but Chad wasn't there, he was already home, with his Heavenly Father. Believe this -- from Chad's new home, he is cheering each one of us on, praying that we do not lose sight of the goal which he now sees clearer than any of us ever have.
If you pray, please pray for Chad's wife, Renee and her two sons, Colin (7) and Aidan (3).
After the visitation, Randy, Tim, Pat and I all went out just to be together. We found a Red Robin in West Chester near where Pat was staying the night. After crying from sorrow, it felt good to cry from laughter (though, I think we can all agree that puking from laughter went a little over the top). It was great to be with those guys that night. Chad would have loved it if he could have been with us.
He will be missed.