Sunday afternoon my phone rang, and it showed a call coming in from Wales. My heart quickened a little because I instinctively knew what I was preparing to hear. The call was from Jennifer Morland, daughter of Jackie Ford, my lifelong friend. Just as I had thought might be, Jennifer told me that her mother had passed away the night before from that dreaded disease Alzheimer’s that she had battled for several years. We talked, and she asked if I would officiate the funeral as we had discussed in years past. My response was of course. And not only would I do it, I would be honored to do it.

Jackie and I became friends at a very early age, even before we started school. We grew up in a great neighborhood and attended the same church. We remained very close until I went away to college, and she became a married lady all about the same time. Even then although not physically close, our friendship never stopped.

We started school in Mrs. Selma Cole’s first grade class at Stokes Beard Elementary School in Columbus. And the highlight of that year was our “big” play, “The Jackie Ford Circus.” I was selected to be the Ringmaster of the circus and remember that event until this day. The years passed and we found ourselves maturing in a world ever changing for both of us. Jackie was cute and always was the apple of some young man’s eye. I was not overly social but an affable, pudgy kid that was not part of the in crowd but was socially acceptable to most. Through the years she did her best to pair me up with young ladies she thought might work for me. Some folks, especially a few of her boyfriends over the years, did not understand nor like our relationship, not just friends but the best of buddies. In high school we talked everyday after school. A lot. We discussed our problems and encouraged each other all the time.

If you were ever able to have a “Jackie Ford” in your life, you were blessed. Cherish your memories. Remember the good and the bad because all helped you become who you are today. Do I dread the funeral Saturday? Absolutely. But I am ready to say to one of the best friends I ever had, “See you later. Until we meet again in Heaven, I know you will enjoy seeing your parents, family, and friends that have gone on before you. And please tell our friend and running mate “Pete” that I send a warm hello. I will not only remember, but treasure the time we had together here on earth. Always…”