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  • My visit with my friends in Connecticut was somewhat disconcerting. My friend Reed, who had discovered he had Hodgkins disease while I was AWOL in Portland, declared that he was an atheist. This really threw me.

    Reed was my best friend in the world. While I usually hadn’t had a lot of trouble making friends, there were very few people in my life with whom I got really close, and who I confided things to and felt a real close bond or kinship with. Reed had been that type of a friend from soon after I first met and got to know him, 5 years earlier. He had a deep inner strength that I was just drawn to. A line from a Jackson Browne song describes it best - "Adam was a friend of mine, though I did not know him long, and when I stood myself beside him, I never thought I was as strong".

    The friendship grew even stronger during my time in the Navy – most of my “leaves” had included visits to Connecticut, which would always include spending some time talking with Reed. While we had never really talked about such things as spirituality and religion, I always considered Reed to be someone who was attuned to the spiritual side of things.

    He was out supervising a crew in the tobacco fields – in the Windsor area, every kid growing up eventually worked in the Shade-Grown Tobacco fields for a summer job. Reed and his brother Tommy were field bosses.

    It was in an old bus they used to get around out there that he just casually made the comment, “I’m an Atheist, now”. This revelation really shook me up. I did not know why. He had what appeared to be a terminal illness, even though they thought he might live another 5 – 10 years before the disease took his life. Hearing him say he was an Atheist just made the idea of his mortality even harder for me to swallow. I left Connecticut heading south, with an alarmingly hollow feeling.
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