An open letter to a friend of mine in Fresno, California. I met Eric through Campus Crusade for Christ at Fresno State. He has deeply impacted my life and tonight I just want to step back and reflect on a friendship I have known since 1999. Through crisis and hardship Eric has blessed my life deeply. That showed itself again in the lobby of St. Agnes Hospital amidst a medical crisis. Thanks for your friendship Eric.
“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.”
“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.”
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
Proverbs 17:17 NLT
I have been meaning to do this for a while, but it was you visiting me in St. Agnes Hospital that finally spurred this letter to you. You know Eric I can still remember the first time I met you and recall the very first conversation I had with you. I was starting grad school at Fresno State and I showed up at the first meeting at Campus Crusade for Christ in 1999. You, as I recall graduated from Fresno State in 1998 or 1999, but you still liked to come to Crusade. You sat behind me and you introduced yourself to me. Here it is almost 18 years later and I am grateful that you did, as you have been a profound and deep blessing on my life. We hung out a couple of times after that, and then I remember when you had your New Years Eve party in 1999. At the time I was a teller for Washington Mutual in Clovis. There were a number of people who attended that event, some people from your church, Butler Church, and a couple of people from Crusade. That night we watched Samuel Jackson’s Deep Blue Sea. To be honest with you I think its one of Jackson’s finest roles. Deep Blue Sea was quite suspenseful, and like Jaws on steroids. Later that night we prayed together for the new millennium and we were up to 4:00 a.m. as I recall playing Risk. I was buzzed on caffeine by being up so late, but it was a good time.
Within the next few months I found myself going out to Milwaukee for Grad School at Marquette. Leaving Fresno was both good and bad, but one of the things I regretted was that I would not see you as much. I had no idea how loyal you would be as a friend and I started to learn that when I lived in Wisconsin. Do you remember when you got engaged? You woke at 2:00 a.m. to tell me you were engaged to Michelle. I still can recall you being excited and going nuts on the phone. I was half asleep. Then you realized what time it was and that there was a two hour time difference between California and Wisconsin. You apologized, and I smiled and said, “Not a problem.” I was happy for you Eric. I had no problem with you waking me to share exciting news. You made on of the most momentous decisions of your life when you proposed to Michelle, and I wanted to support you. Being woken up to share your joy for me was fine. I need to tell you that a few years later I told that story to Michelle and she laughed and said, “Yup I can see Eric doing that!” Despite me moving further east you still kept in touch. You invited me to Butler Church and when I am in Fresno that is where I like to attend. I like Butler and if I lived in Fresno and toward the southeast part of the city I would probably be regularly involved there. Then there was the time you and Michelle came to D.C. and I had the privilege of hanging out with you guys. That was neat.
Its exciting to watch the news and your family grow Eric. You are going to be a good Dad and Michelle is going to be an amazing Mom. I see the devotion and love to your children and family in your talking about them. You love your children immensely. Watching you grow up and be a father is going to be so neat. And I look forward to hearing you and observing that from a distance. One thing that gave me a chuckle is when I guessed that you were going to be a father for a second time. Sorry, I guess as a professional analyst I sometimes get myself into trouble in reading the facts. I don’t know if I told you this but with another one of my friends, James Crestwood we were in a grocery store here in Washington, D.C. and I actually guessed his daughter’s name. James hinted the name was a female name and tied to someone in Kansas history who was a pioneer in aviation. I thought of Amelia Earhart and asked if it was Amelia and James just stopped in a grocery store aisle and said, “I can’t believe you did that…” So you are not the first one to have experienced that it has happened a couple of times.
One of the attributes that is neat Eric is that you have a very caring heart. You do so naturally and it keeps revealing itself over the years. When I was in Fresno and I heard the news that a cousin of mine had committed suicide in 2014 I was shocked. You changed plans and took me out and brought me breakfast and spoke about the situation. You were very comforting in what you said. When I endured a false accusation you got angry and said that the guy who did it lacked the social skills to know how to end a relationship properly. But in my pain as I went through the traumatic event the fact that you were angry meant a lot to me. I still pray that Andrew White and I can resolve the situation one day. Then there is what you did last week when I was in Fresno. I was in the hospital helping to take care of my Mom. You called as I recall, and I explained to you what was going on. It was around 9:00 in the evening and you volunteered to show up and spend time with me. I was kind of in a daze with all that was going on, but when I eventually saw you walking down the corridor in St. Agnes Hospital carrying a bottled water and wanting to talk you deeply touched me in your grace and love. Hanging out in a hospital lounge just talking and catching up and was a well needed diversion against a medical crisis. But I am amazed that time and again on a regular basis you have the capability to respond in love, grace and encourage. I think your spiritual gift Eric is that you can encourage people in a beautiful and uplifting way.
But I want to say thank you for is being a devoted friend. You have blessed my life in ways I can’t really explain. You have been thoughtful, kind, loving, and as I wrote above caring. Rare indeed, is the friend that preserves throughout time, distance, and upheaval as my life and family have experienced. I don’t take any of my friends for granted, I have been blessed to know individuals like you, Danny Risch, James Crestwood, Scott Van Sweringen, and Joe Blow. So I hope you find this encouraging Eric and as you work with people in Butler Church I hope this results in your investing your life in those around you. Eric you have taught me a lot about faith through all this and in the process you have modeled the Lord in a deep and passionate way. You did that whether it was in your trips to Thailand or off to Africa, or pouring your life into people all around you. Please keep it up as it is so needed today. There is a warped version of what a man is today in evangelicalism, and you model it beautifully in how you raise your family, serve your church, and love those around you. Thank you for being my Nathan.
Eric tonight I found out from my family that my Mom was officially diagnosed with a low grade lymphoma. That explains why she has lost so much weight and why her platelet count is low. So now we know what we are dealing with. You have been a beautiful and rare friend for half my life. Can I ask you to pray for my family and just be yourself and check in from time to time as this plays out? I will be traveling back to Fresno in the February or March time frame to spend time with my Mom and help my family. There is some anxiety in my family as I have talked with both my Dad and sister. So can I lean on you during this time? But as I will be heading back to visit I am sure I will see you again soon. Its not going to be the desired situation. But sometimes in pain and suffering love and be found in unique ways . I actually wrote about that recently as I contemplated that theme in the movie Collateral Beauty.
We’ll be in touch Eric, thanks so much for being a part of my life. I am deeply grateful for meeting and knowing you in Campus Crusade. Who would have imagined what a casual encounter would have grown into? Thanks for being yourself.
I love you bro!