A gospel of friendship on a deathbed
"The Four's trip north to the Wichita hospital, as the sun rose, was quiet, except for a few memories of The Illidge. They remembered his love for music, especially jazz, which he would often discuss with another graduate of "The Old School," The Woody. But he knew and enjoyed much for an old geezer, including Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. On his bulletin board, he had an autographed photo of Martina McBride.
"At the hospital, they found The Illidge flat on his back but alert, Sweet Pea and daughter Fran, and the conversation was light and enjoyable, and a smile crossed The Illidge's face. The Clark mentioned that he'd smuggled some spirits into the hospital with him and proposed a toast, in the spirit of The Booth. Sweet Pea asked if he wanted it, and he readily agreed. Then it was that the spirits were poured into several glasses used previously as Fleet phosphate doses for cleaning out digestive systems, and the toasts were made.
"The talk turned to many things, including air conditioning, and the anecdote, in the midst of unsaid goodbyes, that comes next is still told in every Booth with great relish and laughter, and tears.
"After air conditioning, someone mentioned preferring attic fans, which all agreed were wonderful inventions. And then The Illidge commented on the one in his and Sweet Pea's manse.
"To Bob," tales and toasts of humor on his deathbed"'Turn that baby on, and it's so powerful it'll suck the grandchildren right up into the attic.' Still the tales are told in the Booth even today, of The Illidge, his Catholic faith, and ability to joke on his deathbed.
"The joviality couldn't last, and it came time to say goodbye, with hugs and wet eyes and many words to him and his wife and daughter.
"The Clark waited till all had left, and sat down briefly on the bed by his friend. They looked at each other and shook hands. The Clark can't remember what The Illidge said. All The Clark could say, was to mumble, 'I love you.'
"Nobody talked on the way home to Oklahoma.
"The next Booth, later that week, and all the rest since, begin with a toast, 'To Bob.' Those Boothing knew The Call would be coming, and another trip north soon."
And so it came to pass."
To be continued