A friend of mine died this week.
I didn’t know him well, so some might say he was more of an acquaintance than a friend. But they would be wrong. He was my friend.
I knew Lew Fraser for barely two years. He passed away on October 8, 2014. I suspect if you could add up the total time we spent actually talking together, it would not total a full 24 hours. Earlier this year, at least three of those hours were spent in his office where we talked about baseball, friends we had in common, and about Jesus. It was there in his office I learned of his remarkable business career, his desire to reach others with the Good News, and how much he loved his family. Many of those topics were captured in picture frames hanging on his office walls.
I knew his health was suspect. He had been in and out of the hospital for various things. Every time the topic came up, however, he would merely shrug it off. His office has a spiral staircase which he had to climb and in my visit, made the trek three different times while attending to various matters. But after pausing to catch his breath, he finally eased into a chair, leaned forward and focused his attention on me. There was no pretense. He was genuinely interested in me. In some ways, it was a bit unnerving because in our multitasking world, we often hold conversations without really looking each other in the eyes. Lew listened.
Baseball and his granddaughter brought us together. Lew had a big heart and his generosity has been felt by many. As for the University of Miami, I learned he had been a key backer for College Hall of Fame coach, Ron Fraser. From the handwritten notes and mementos on his desk, Coach Fraser enjoyed a key ally.
Over the years his attention had turned elsewhere, but when my son, who is on the University of Miami’s baseball team, started dating his granddaughter, he purchased chair-back season tickets. I’m not sure if it was to watch the games or to be able to more closely examine the interests of his granddaughter, but over the past two seasons, he rarely missed a home game.
He quickly became one of my son’s biggest fans and loved to wait around after games ended so he could congratulate our son on the team’s win, or offer a suggestion or two for winning the next one. He loved baseball and as happens with so many of us, coming out to the ball park on a beautiful Miami evening seemed to invigorate him.
I loved watching as his granddaughter would lovingly leave the social atmosphere of her friends in the stands to go sit with her grandpa. Lew’s eyes would light up with love and joy and there they’d sit, watching the game as they talked and enjoyed being together.
Over his years, Lew faced some of life’s great rewards as well as its heartbreaks and tragedies. I knew him when he couldn’t help but speak of his renewed faith in a loving and personal God and how he hoped his story of faith would encourage others. In one of our last conversations, he told me how much he wished he would have known my Dad. Then, in a very humbling moment, he looked at me with those kind and generous eyes and said, “But I know you. Your dad must have been someone very special.”
Lew was my friend because he wanted to be. It really is as simple and profound as that. In John 15:12, Jesus said, “This is my commandment: love each other in the same way I have loved you.” That’s a very tall order. But I have no doubt, Lew was always trying to do just that.