Thursday, December 24, 2009

Remembering a friend

This year the sparkle of the holidays had already dimmed for me. Caring full-time for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease can drain a person’s health, energy, enthusiasm . . . even life. Add to that a son in prison and not being able to be with my grandchildren at Christmas and I wanted to skip December altogether.

Then I learned that a good friend from my past had died a few months ago. It didn't seem possible he was gone. Brian Ollman was full of life--just 40 years old, a loving husband and father of three young, adorable children.

Personally, he was a good friend to me when I went through some of my most frightening and difficult moments as the single mother of a meth addict.

Brian understood because he had been there. He was open about his drug past, and I remember the Sunday he spoke at church and candidly shared his own story of redemption.

Brian was there for my family the night I told my son he had to leave my home when he was just 18, because he continued to use drugs. Brian gave my son a place to stay as long as he attended school and stopped using.

Brian was there with me the evening the police searched my house. One of my son’s friends had made some improbable claims and they needed to follow up. Brian insisted I shouldn’t go through that alone. He was right and I was grateful for his presence.

And Brian was with me the Easter Sunday we went to visit my son at the California state prison where he was incarcerated about 12 years ago. We had arrived by 6:00 a.m. to assure we would be allowed to visit later that morning. It wasn’t long until I noticed flashing lights--none I had ever seen before. In just a few minutes, the parking lot was surrounded by guards who were pointing their guns at us.

They had just stopped an escape attempt a few hundred yards away and thought someone in the visitors’ parking lot may have been involved. We were detained for hours and I was ready to leave but Brian was patient and persistent. We finally saw my son for about a half hour that afternoon.

I’m only one person who can call Brian a friend. Brian’s and Heidi’s ministry to the homeless touched many lives and whatever endeavor he was pursuing, he cared about people and their souls.

I’m sure others have expressed their grief and sadness far more eloquently than I can. My real regret is that I don't think I ever told Brian how much I had appreciated him and his friendship.

But it’s reassuring to know he’s with Jesus today, and you can be sure they’re having even more fun in heaven now that Brian’s there.