“A friend loves at all times…” Proverbs 17:17
I was 11 years old when I met Chad Robert Petersen. We had an instant connection and I will always believe that he was the brother God sent to me. We saw the best in each other. He was cute, sweet, humorous, and talented. He was happiness, fun, kindness, and love. Chad was my kindred spirit.
My fondest memories of Chad are connected to Raymond Baptist Church. His father was my pastor and his mother was my youth leader. It might have seemed more natural that I would be best friends with the sister he brought along with him, but that wasn’t meant to be. He would slip into church with his baseball cap pulled down over his eyes. He would slide into the pew and sit still as a statue. I knew to watch or I would miss it. He would finally peek out from under that cap and wink at me. If I was really lucky, he would stick his tongue out at me, too! Sometimes he played his trumpet while my sister played the piano and I loved it! He would always pick me to be on his team even though I couldn’t hit a ball that far and my running was mediocre.
Chad was a loyal friend and I told him that many times in letters and poems. He would say that my words made “a young boy like him cry.” It was easy to be honest with Chad and even easier to say beautiful things about him. In return for the letters and poems, he drew me pictures and he made me giggle. He had no mercy; even when I couldn’t breathe, he kept goofing and I kept laughing. Chad was brave and he was never afraid to say that he loved me. He is most likely the reason that some of the greatest friendships in my life have been with males.
I stood beneath a tree with Chad one Sunday afternoon and we pledged to be friends for life. Friends for life…
A few short years after that pledge, I went to college and Chad’s family left Raymond Baptist Church. Ironically, we both wound up in Bowling Green, but I only saw him twice while there. Chad never left my heart and his passion for life continued to inspire me as year after year passed. I would recall something he said or an expression he made. Sometimes the recollection would make me laugh and sometimes it would make me cry.
Eventually, I lost count of how many years passed since seeing him. I reminisced about him. I pondered a reunion with him. I planned to write him a letter. I figured I would give him a call. I just knew that I would see Chad again someday. I heard things about him through the years…he was working, he was married, he was happy, he was sad, he cared about me, he missed me, he was all grown up and so was I.
Chad slipped through my fingers. He disappeared just like that. Six years ago, my family was celebrating Mother’s Day and I received a phone call. Chad was dead. He was gone, and my plans were gone with him. I never got to tell Chad that even in my grown-up heart; he filled a place that no one else could. He had given me a special kind of happiness that I would never experience again in this lifetime. I’m fortunate because I still have his mother to help me remember. I have her to promise me that he knew I loved him for all those years. His memory lives on through our conversations and his smile is a part of the joy in my life. He forever will be…my friend for life.