They Sent Me A Message This Morning That Said My Friend May Only Survive Four More Days

JoeFerguson 200by Lawrence A. Robinson
I met Joseph S. Ferguson sixteen years ago when I started working for Sprint. He had been working there for a while already. I noticed his weird sense of fashion before we even met. He was somewhat loud but friendly and will laugh in a minute.


Not only was his style noticeably different from mine, but his philosophy was slightly askew also. It was that skewed life's philosophy that was the basis of our friendship. Practically every conversation with him was a friendly debate.

We would sit on the patio, me with a cigar and single malt, and he with a beer and a cigarette. We debated what ever topic came up. We were just two old Black men having a great conversation and enjoying life.

Joe's BBQ Sauce

Joe and I had a very strong friendship. My pastor thought we were brothers. Yes, we did debate religion and Black business, politics and even how often you should clean your pool among other interesting topics.

He had spent eighteen years in the army and was very proud to have served his country. Sometimes

when he wore his army cap or I would see the army tag on the front of his car, I would rib him about it and the debate would begin. That gave him the opportunity to tell the Bosnia, tent over the foxhole story. Digging a deep foxhole for his men and putting a tent over it was good idea...till it stormed.

Or the time he and the lieutenant fell 40 feet from the helicopter with him landing on top of the lieutenant. What a hot mess that was.

The lieutenant survived his physical injuries but had to retire from the army. Joe wasn't physically hurt but there was talk of a court marshal, but he and his army career survived. He retired honorably with full benefits.

There obviously were many great army stories that he talked about. They all had happy endings, no matter how they started.

About two months ago, Joe felt dizzy and was taken to the hospital. Joe had been in the hospital for a week before he even told me. I visited him in the hospital several times over the next week. He didn't like hospital food so I would get what ever he wanted till the nurse suggested that I picked his food up from the hospital food service.

They told him he had cancer.

talephFerguson posedWe talked about life and we talked about death. We hoped that it wouldn't come to death just yet. Both of us were honest with each other in our conversation. There was no debating this time.

The doctors decided to put him in a hospice facility. His niece moved him to Georgia with her because his sister was there also.

I didn't hear from Joe for three weeks. His niece called me so that he and I could talk. He said he was getting better and he wanted to come back to Orlando. His niece called me an hour later and told me the truth.

They sent me a message this morning and said that my friend may only survive four more days. They said that the cancer has taken over his body. He and I had talked about this weeks before, but I wasn't ready for this. I read the message and tried to create a happy ending using my memories of him.

They sent me a message this morning and told me that his breathing was shallow:
He loved pool volleyball and pool basketball. He decided that the deep end of his pool was too deep. So about four years ago, he drained his pool and added 8 inches of concrete to make it shallow enough for him to stand in while playing pool volleyball.

They sent me a message this morning and said that he hasn't talked in days.
A few years ago I helped him build a barbecue truck. During the year of back-to-back hurricanes in Orlando, he parked his truck on the corner of Silver Star Road and Hiawassee and sold complete dinners. There was a cook inside the truck but he would walk and talk and joke with the lines of people waiting to buy his great dinners.
When the electric power was out, Joe would set up his portable generator in his driveway and allow homeowners in his cul-de-sac to connect and power their refrigerators.

They sent me a message this morning and said that he hasn't eaten in three days.
Years ago, I hired him to cater a barbecue pool party at my home. He brought so much food that practically everyone took home a plate. Afterwards he and I sat on the patio smoking, eating and debating his lack of ability to calculate food amounts.

They sent me a message this morning and said that there is blood in his urine.
When we worked at Sprint, often management needed to quickly inform us of new procedures. Once they put a note in the men's bathroom taped to the wall at the urinal so that it wouldn't be missed. I had him stand at the wall pretending to pee while trying to read the note and I took a picture of him.

They sent me a message this morning that said my friend would survive three or four more days. That was seven days ago. Born October 16, 1950. Transitioned August 17, 2016.

Goodbye, buddy.