When my barber David Knight who worked in the U.S. Senate building died, it felt like losing a beloved family member.
One meaning of family is a group of people in the service of an individual. For years, Dave and his partners were family to me. The moment I entered the barber shop, their greeting had the familiar sound of my mom and dad when coming home; a joyful sound of friendship and a feeling of being at a home away from home.
As I would get into the barber chair, Dave would ask, "How are you doing?" This usually led to discussions about parish life and topics like both of us being left-handed baseball players. Sometimes he would check my fingertips to see if my violin playing had created grooves that reflected hours of practice.
Haircuts were never rushed. When I thought he was finished, he would say, "Let's sharpen this up a little bit more, you got to look your best for your people." He echoed my mom who was forever encouraging me to look dressed up.
American journalist Charles Kuralt once said, "The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege." As I mourn Dave's death, I now realize more than ever how important his friendship was and how honored I have been.
It is sad that it takes the death of a friend to realize the privileges of life we enjoy. Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu sums this up beautifully, "You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them."
Dave was not only a gift from God, but the gift of a gentleman. In the book "The Idea of a University," Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote that a gentleman "makes light of favors while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring." Dave exuded this gentlemanly spirit par excellence.
I counsel young people to cherish their parents while they are still alive because you don't have them forever. Dave may have departed from us, but thanks to cherished memories, his spirit will live on in all of us who knew him.
- FatherEugene Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service