A Visit with an Old Friend

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jun 11, 2011

"A friend is a gift you give yourself."
Robert Louis Stevenson

As soon as I heard that Paul's lethal cancer had returned with a vengeance, I knew I just had to go and visit him in person. We have been friends for a long time, at least 15 years. 

Over the years we have had many conversations as we have wrestled with vexing leadership issues. He being a former member of our VFCC Board of Trustees, we've challenged each other on the best ways to prepare a young person for leadership responsibility. We've stood in parking lots and airport terminals and in each of our offices testing our ideas. 

Some of our best exchanges have taken place as we have tried solving complex theological subjects. And though we agree with each other far more than we disagree, it is during our disagreements that our eyes sparkle and our friendship thrives. 

We met for an 8:00 AM breakfast at The Original Waffle Shop at 1610 West College Avenue, State College, PA. Since it was raining and I wasn't sure of the traffic, I arrived a little early and ordered a cup of coffee where the menu claimed this objective: "Striving to be Eggceptional." Arriving in America in 1996, John Dimakopoulos founded this Waffle Shop in 1972 and another was later added at North Atherton Street. 

"We pride ourselves," he says, "In offering homemade food prepared with the freshest ingredients available and made just the way you like it." 

Sure, the food was advertised to be "Fresh, fast and fun . . . every day" and the menu was filled with specialty "waffles," "Gold-N-Good Pancakes," and all kinds of "Breakfast Favorites." But this breakfast was less about the food than it was about two old friends meeting together one more time.

I sat there pondering all of these things: The rain, the menu, the decor, the rest of my day; but most of all I thought about my 8:00 meeting with Paul. A few days earlier Paul had shared with me the ominous medical report that, unless there is a miracle, he has months rather than years to live. The tumors are already crowding his vital organs. That kind of update makes some issues very important and other issues irrelevant. I wanted our time together to matter - to him and also to me. Somehow I knew we wouldn't spend much time talking about the baseball score of the Phillies the night before. 

Soon he joined me and we were jabbering just like friends who pick up where they last left off. Together we laughed as one more time we addressed leadership responsibilities (his and mine) and one more time we tried to improve each other's unique theological leanings. 

But then in the middle of the joy of just being together my friend spoke of his health. I knew of the doctor's mis-diagnosis a number of years ago when he first noticed a growth on the side of his jaw. A few years later when a more careful examination took place, it was already too late. These years have been filled with powerful radiation treatments, surgeries to remove the cancer and reconstructions surgeries, and more inconvenience than anyone should ever have to suffer. 

Here, however, was a man of great faith believing God for a miracle; but even if a miracle does not come, Paul spoke of heaven as a better place to be than here on earth. Paul's goal is not "learning how to die but how to live until you die." 

Too quickly our breakfast was over. We grabbed our umbrellas, walked outside, and gave each other a big hug and each went our separate ways to our next appointments. But all I have to do is close my eyes, breathe deep and remember - I will always remember - that wonderful breakfast when my friend, Paul Grabill, gave me the treasured gift of his time. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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