It was the teddy bear.
On a long table in the funeral parlor, next to baseball hats, an Indian Guides vest, golf paraphernalia and dozens of pictures, the teddy bear left me choked up.
I returned from a family vacation to say goodbye to Henry Osterkamp, a friend for over 35 years.
His death was sudden, too soon. I had not seen him in some time but out of sight did not mean out of mind.
If there were one word to describe Henry it would be appetite. He was a big, passionate man with a huge heart, standing 6'3 with a booming voice and a look that reminded me of the actor John Goodman.
He had a zest for life and lived it on his own terms. Late last year he left the corporate world for good, taking time to play poker tournaments and connect with friends and family.
Henry was funny and smart. When he entered the room it was impossible not to smile.
And he was good to my kids, which made him golden.
Upon meeting him at the age of 5 my twins managed to scale his bulky frame as if climbing Mount Rainier, their tiny laughs no match for his thunderous, playful demeanor.
Now he's gone, and I am left shaken.
The day after the memorial service, Fathers Day, I took my kids to the pool. I found myself in tears, again, saddened about Henry's death. My now teenage son, the mountain climber, started to ask what was wrong but stopped. I told him how sad I was, sad that Henry died without being a father. His life was rich though, I said, rich in friends, family and experiences.
Then it hit me.
I have lost other friends, sadly, but this was different because my memories of Henry are intertwined with our fathers.
The four of us loved our sports, and we went, because back then you could go to a baseball game for less than a car payment.
We always had a blast, even through rain delays or sitting for an hour in a parking lot waiting to exit the old Comiskey Park.
On a hot Fathers Day afternoon, I looked into my son's eyes and he looked back, silently. As his childhood flies by, part of mine ended.
He got it. We got it. And it was good to cry.
Godspeed my friend.
Henry George Osterkamp
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