If it feels like the world isn’t as bright, it may not just be the gloomy weather. The world lost some light last night as my best friend Freddie passed away. Yeah, this post is about me a little bit and me thinking about my good friend. Believe me, it’s a wonderful thing that he has gone home. His cancer was really digging in, he said all of his goodbyes, and no one wanted to see him suffer. Death is simply a part of life. In reality, Fred’s light is not gone – I hold it inside me as will others whose life he touched. I feel the loss that I’m feeling because when we lose someone that we have loved, we ponder. When we go to visitations and funerals and gatherings to say goodbye, we ride the time machine a little bit and revisit those times that we remember with such fond memories.
Fred and I began working together up in Bemidji almost 31 years ago and we clicked almost immediately. Sometimes that how it happens – you just connect. He had kids in school. I was single and had hair (well, a lot more than I have now and it was all brown). Freddie headed to live near the big city a couple of years before I did and when I was down looking for work, I crashed at his place a few time. We both ran into hard times more than once and we always knew about each other’s troubles because we were always there helping each other though when we needed it. When Fred’s wife left, he raised his three kids, and he loved raising his kids. As his kids had kids he loved being Grampa. As his oldest grandson, Ryan, is getting ready to graduate high school this year, Fred’s youngest son, Derrick, had his first child and gave Fred his newest grandson. Fred was so tickled to meet Connor Fredrick (yep, got his Grandpa’s name) and spend some time with the little guy over the last several months.
Fred was the type of guy that got people at work to pool some money together and buy Christmas gifts for needy families, even when he had less than everyone else to give. He loved to give bigger than necessary tips to people that not only gave good service but seemed to be someone that he really thought needed a break. Freddie always liked wayside chapels. Even though they seemed to have fallen out of favor because of all the vandalism that happens to them, he had a passion to get one built. He approached the leadership of the church where he grew up with the idea. Most thought it was a dumb idea and since he hadn’t been a member of the parish for years, who did he think he was pushing ideas like that anyway? Well, that didn’t stop him. The priest liked the idea and he and Fred were in cahoots pushing the idea and getting everyone else in church to think it was their idea. He had to be rather coy in checking on the project but when he found things were getting gummed up somewhere, he would put his nose into it and get things going again. When it was nearing completion, Fred came over to my house for a woodworking party. I’m the woodworker, not Freddie but he had a plan to add his fingerprints to the effort. He had ordered ceramic stations-of-the-cross and brought them along. He and I built mounting brackets for all the stations in my backyard. Using jigs and clamps and power tools, I made it as easy as I possibly could and he and I got our assembly line going. He was so excited. A few weeks later, just before the grand opening of the chapel, we went there with our power tools and mounted the stations around the inside walls of the little church. Behind each one, Freddie put pictures of people and moments that were special to him as we mounted them to the wall. I think it might be behind station #7 where there is a picture of me and Fred building holders for the stations in my backyard. When I last spent a few hours with Fred, we were talking and reminiscing about that day and his great chapel that so few people knew was his idea. If you are ever near the Catholic Cemetery in the town of Foley, Minnesota, drop by and see Fred’s chapel and our handiwork. Fred will be buried as close as he could get to his little church. He will be buried next to his wife Linda that just passed a few months before he did. They will be so glad to be out walking together again.
I will miss my friend so much but he’s not gone from my heart. We did have our time to say goodbye and that is a luxury we don’t always have. This gives me one more reminder that those we love need to hear from us on a regular basis that we love them. Thanks for letting me share some thoughts about my friend. Remember, if we choose to find it, all those that have loved us have left a beautiful light inside for us to help us find our way.