I met my best friend, Lance Washington, while we were working at QVC (the shopping channel) almost thirty years ago. We worked the overnight shift, answering telephones and taking orders. I had relocated to Pennsylvania from Tennessee, and kept to myself at work (my southern accent meant I had to repeat practically everything I said – people just loved listening to my accent at the time). I typically sat alone, read books during my shift, ate lunch alone, took breaks alone.
One night, I heard some boisterous laughter from the row behind me. There was Lance, standing and laughing with everyone around him. There was a group of people around him, literally waiting to hear what he would say next. I wondered to myself, “Who is this guy, and why is he so popular?”
I didn’t know at the time that he was wondering about me, “Who is this guy, and why is he always in a shell by himself?”
Eventually, Lance introduced himself to me, and we discovered we had a shared passion – we both loved movies. We quickly became friends, and we often went to the movies together, usually at least once a week. We did have our differences, though. He was a Star Trek person – I’m Star Wars all the way.
A few years later, I relocated back to Tennessee, and we lost touch. I often wondered how Lance was doing, and where he was, but almost twenty years had passed. I wondered if he ever thought about me.
Then one night I got a comment on my blog. A simple, one-line comment: “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” (The original Batman movie in 1989 was one of my favorites.) I knew immediately it was Lance. After twenty years, he had found me, and our friendship was reborn.
He met my son Nicholas – now an adult. Lance had not seen Nick since Nick was a baby, yet took him in like he was family. Nick has called him Uncle Lance ever since.
This past July, Lance was spending a week in Gatlinburg, TN, and invited us to come out and spend some time with him. Nicholas went, and I took my youngest son Jonathan and his friend Kason. Jonathan and Kason were instantly taken with Lance, and started calling him “Uncle Lance” immediately.
We spent a few days in Gatlinburg, and though he had several health issues, Lance spent a day with us walking through Gatlinburg, going to museums and posing for an old-time photo. It was a great day. On the last day together, we had pancakes at one of the pancake restaurants, then said our goodbyes (and started planning a trip for next year).
Unfortunately, Lance won’t be there in person next year. He passed away last Friday at the age of 48.
In this day of Facebook and other social media, it seems everyone has thousands of friends. But there’s usually just that special one or two people we consider to be our truest friends. The kind of friends you can count on one hand. The stars of your own personal movie. Lance was, for me, that one true friend.
I’m the kind of person that remembers “events” – I remember going places, who went with me, but the details of the events usually leave my memory over time.
Lance remembered “moments” – he recalled details of events we shared almost thirty years ago to my boys, all the way down to the weather of the day. He had an incredible memory, and as he told the stories of our times together – complete with his infectious laugh – I could see those times were as important to him as they were to me.
Goodbye my friend. I will miss you and love you for the rest of my days. Rest in peace.