I lost an old friend this week, and today I just came back from a very large memorial service for my friend. All three of the sitting rooms in the funeral home were filled and more chairs had to be brought in.
Ernie was one of my oldest friends in fact. Both in age as well as in the length that I knew him.
I’ve always been proud that my friends have come in all different packages. I have tried to make sure it has never mattered to me how young or old, male or female, fat or thin or anything in between, what their education or lack thereof was, how little or how much money they’ve had or make, what their disabilities are, what their nationality or color was, or their interests. Sometimes I’ve had to get past my own biases, sometimes I’ve been able to and sometimes ultimately I have not been able to. But I think usually I could.
There’s been some (unforgettable) times when one of my friends has met another friend – only for one to look down on another. That’s just not right. My friend is your friend, your friend is my friend – at least that’s the way it should be. It’s surprising sometimes how little you know people. And on the other hand it’s surprising sometimes when you find out how well you CAN know someone, and how good people turn out to be; despite my cynical look upon the general population.
My friend Ernest Jeican was 77 years old; he had heart problems, bad diabetes, could barely see, and had lost a leg. But he still lived alone and even with his health problems held out hope for solutions and improvements and worked at improving himself every day.
I met Ernie at a Commodore User’s Group meeting back in the 80’s. At that time Commodore computers were all the rage, back before the Internet was called the Internet and the average person neither could nor would use it, when BBS’s (Bulletin Board Systems – the precursor to the modern webboard or chat room) were big. The dinosaur days in computing terms, in other words.
We all shared software, techniques, bought and sold hardware and generally had a great time.
I’ve been a member of a number of clubs in my life, and never really developed a taste for the whole group/camaraderie thing.
But the exception to this was the Commodore club. I met a number of good people there, some became close friends and I’ve lost track of those people for the most part, except for Ernie.
We always kept in touch here and there and after he retired we’d get together and trade software and such. When we both got into PC’s we did the same and I’d stop in once every few weeks or even once a week. After awhile my visits included fixing and helping him with things that his failing eyesight caused him trouble with. I also met a number of his family and friends and lots of people from his amateur radio club – which was a major interest of his.
Last week I stopped in and dropped off a DVD that I copied for him and checked out a piece of software I had recommended to him. Unfortunately he had been out with his daughter getting groceries so I didn’t get a chance to see him that one last time – if I’d known it would have been the last chance I would have stopped over later in the day. Funny how you regret the things that you really can’t blame yourself for, yet still do.
I called him later and we talked a bit. The last thing he said to me was to offer to lend me a movie he thought I might like. I told him I’d stop over this week and pick it up and show him how to use the software I had recommended to him a bit more.
Now, instead of stopping over on the day I probably would have to see him – I went to his memorial service instead.
Despite him being 77 and me 41 we had a lot in common. It’s one of the greatest things in the world to be able to have a friend no matter their age deference. It’s one of the few fundamental things about human nature that gives me hope for humankind – that there’s some of us who can get past differences and become longtime friends.
As I said, we had a lot in common. Our interest in computers of course, but also electronics and airplanes and music and some other basic philosophies on life that span age and other dissimilarities.
There were a lot of older songs that he liked that we sometimes would listen to try out a set of speaker or a conversion program or something, but one more modern song that I remember him liking was Prince’s “When Doves Cry”. A song I like fine too. A good example of how music can bridge the gap in ages. I’ll forever associate this song with Ernie, in a sad way of course. But I am also going to try to think of it as a tribute to him and our friendship over the years.
Ernie; like anyone his age, had a lot of hardships and tragedies in his life; like when his wife died. He was a long-time engineer on the railroad as well as any number of other jobs that would have been whole careers to most people. He served in the military, learned another language, and even how to fly.
Hee was always a happy guy and always happy to see me and quick to welcome me into his home. He was the consummate gentleman, always offering me anything he had. There’s a phrase – “A Scholar and a Gentleman” and this is probably the best description I could give to describe Ernie.
I don’t have any religion to rely on for the whole “gone to a better place” concept and comfort, so sometimes I think it’s harder for us Atheists. The memorial service was heavy with prayer and such, but the deacon who did the service knew Ernie for over forty years so he was able to lend the personal touch that sometimes is lacking in funerals with religious services. Afterward, a couple who manufacture musical instruments got up and played one of the beautifully handcrafted little string instruments and sung a song in tribute to him. It was touching, and a good ending to the memorial service as, like I said above; Ernie was a big music fan. He would have liked it.
I have beside me my electric guitar. I barely can bang on the thing, I’m not that good and the only way for me to read music is to use a converter program to make it shows the chords on the computer screen while I follow along. But I’m okay at listening to music and being able to copy it on the guitar after a bunch of tries. So I’m going to queue up “When Doves Cry” and do a goodbye of my own to Ernie. RIP Ernie.