This is my friend, Coke, as we all have called him most of his life. His real name is Constantine. He says he was almost in the third grade before he could write his name without errors. You might have that problem, too, if you had to write Constantine Lee Hagepanos over and over with those big thick pencils.
We've been friends for a long while now. We met in college; he was a photographer for the University's newspaper. He captured one of my favorite images one morning during the dark ages of in-person student registration. It's only one of the thousands of images he's captured with his camera. He probably doesn't even remember this one but it's special to me. It was the start of a years long friendship. In many ways our lives have paralleled. We could be brother and sister from different mothers based on similar life experiences. Heck, we even have the same middle name!
Coke has always marched to the beat of his own drum and many times that's not been the easiest march. He's a people rescuer. He will do anything for someone that he likes, or admires, or loves, or just because he's encountered them and they need help that he can give. Sometimes his willingness to help another has been at personal cost to himself. Sometimes he's invested in someone who really didn't deserve all his help. Sometimes they proved unworthy of his gift. But, more often than not, anyone who has encountered Coke becomes better for his investment. He is one of the best friends a person could have.
A recipient who is worthy of Coke's investment is his mother, Callie. She is a wonderful spirit of quiet wit and wisdom. She has not had an easy life. She missed out on much of the joy one should expect from those around them. And as she has grown older, with significant health issues, Coke has been torn as to how to help her. He has brothers and sisters, but as is often the case with family dynamics, it's generally one child who shoulders the burden of the many decisions of caring for and about an aging parent. Not that the other children couldn't or wouldn't take care of the parent, but generally there is one who the parent will allow to care for them. For Callie, that child is Coke.
To wit, Coke, who had a very interesting life in Germany working as an Ex-pat for a major banking concern, decided to come home and move in with Callie. Not that he felt he had to, but because he genuinely felt it to be his calling. He invested major personal wealth into clearing out and rehabbing the small bungalow he grew up in so life for Callie would be easier. He has centered his life on taking care of her physical needs.
Yesterday, peacefully, Callie shed this world of ours and has gone on to The Next Place. Coke's tour of duty is now complete. He has done for his mother what he has done for so many of us-- he has seen her safely home.
For any who have had the experience of taking care of a parent as the world around them slips slowly away, we understand what it can take out of a person. But, I have never heard Coke utter more than a few casual complaints about it all. Mostly, he just viewed it as a duty and necessity and shouldered on.
He always seems to find a sense of purpose or contentment with a day. And now that Callie's part in his life is complete, I know he will find even more definition as a beloved Pop to his small grandson. He will continue his work as mentor and guardian for his nephew. He will always be the father who loves his daughter through all the phases of her life. And I will hold hope, thanks to Coke's example with his mom, that his daughter will understand what love in action looks like when Coke's time of need unfolds. He will always be to the rest of us, one of the best friends we have.
I know Callie is at peace. I hope for the same for my friend. Because he deserves it. He's earned it. And if I can ever return the favor of being his friend in anyway, I hope I can do so as well as he has always been a friend to me.
Coke is my Friend; he's become Michael's Friend. He is Callie's Son. And he is often the Sun in our lives especially during those times when the darkness is closing in and we are completely afraid that we'll never see the light again.
May Callie go forth shining. And may all of us who call him friend be there to help Coke continue to find the joy in life now that this chapter closes and he looks forward to what comes next.
Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Coke's Friend