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Friends for Life

When my childhood best friend was fighting for his life, we found new strength in our oldest bonds.

I carried a pizza to his house, near the end. He seemed to be half-asleep.

"You brought me a pizza?" he said, both approvingly, and chidingly — did he look like a guy who, at the moment, was ready to dig into a large pepperoni?

"Maybe not the best idea," I said.

"I'm sort of tired," he said.

"Why don't I come back later," I said. "I've been walking around. I can do that some more while you nap."

"Greene," he said, propping himself up. "What are you wearing?"

I had on a windbreaker and a pair of jeans, both wet from the rain.

"You can't wear that," he said.

"I'm fine."

"No, no," he said. "I've got a heavy jacket you can wear."

"I don't need it."

He called out to downstairs: "Janice?" She didn't respond. He strained to call even louder: "Jan?"

"Jack, I don't need a heavier jacket."

"You're not leaving without my jacket," he said. He sat up further, pushed the oxygen tubes to the side of his face, and tried to shout for her: "Jan?"

"Don't do that," I said. "It can't be good for your voice."

"I won't do it if you promise you'll take my jacket," he said. Janice appeared in the doorway.

"I have a heavy black jacket down in the back closet," he said to her. "Look what Greene's wearing. Don't let him go out without my jacket on."

She looked at me and shrugged. "You heard him," she said.

He lay back down. "Promise me, Greene," he said.

"I won't leave without the jacket," I said. He drifted off to sleep; Janice and I walked down the stairs. She went to a closet and handed me a black coat.

"Wear it," she said. "You know he's going to ask me about it." So I did. I left the house as he rested; the air was still wet and raw. Full circle, I thought. He's still looking out for me.

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