Usually at this time of year I write a humorous column imagining a conversation between myself and God, who talks like a Fluffyan.
But I don't have it in me this year, because my best friend died early Sunday, a few hours before I was going to visit him.
The passing of Jim Moran has turned out the Christmas lights for his friends and family.
He was 78, and he had health issues that were growing worse. He went into hospice last week. I spoke to him briefly twice, but we were interrupted by staff. When I called after that, he was too weak to talk. So I planned a visit to say goodbye, although I had no idea what I actually would say.
I was going to bring a mini-bottle of Dewar's, his drink of choice, because his fiancée, Janice Quinn, said he'd asked for a shot.
A Ridley native with blue-collar roots, he was a proud Penn State alum, served in the peacetime Army in Italy (where he had the best time), and was a reporter for the Associated Press before he switched over to business and launched a long, successful career with Sun Oil.
"I was successful because I knew how to lie to the press," he would say. No, he was successful because he didn't lie. Obfuscate a little? Sure. Lie? No.
We were friends for four decades, and in our 30s we'd go out drinking about once a week, usually at Doc Watson's in Center City. An Irish Protestant, he taught me how to empty a pitcher of beer.
With beer sloshing in our bellies, we would walk to a pizza place on Locust near 13th for some slices to soak up the suds before closing out the night.
We had a lot in common: a love of journalism, some mild despair about some of its practices, current events, travel, a tolerance for bad jokes.
But we had a lot of differences, too, mainly political. He was a conservative, and to him (I know this will surprise some of you) I was a raging liberal.
The point is, in 40 years of friendship and conversation — and we could talk wallpaper off the wall — we never once had a fight. Disagreements? Sure. But not even raised voices.
One thing he taught me about friendship is the unquestioning nature of it.
"I'll never lend you money," he once said. "If you are in trouble, I will give it to you." He figured a loan could only lead to hard feelings. I took his advice on a few occasions and gave money when it was needed, with instructions to not pay it back.
Jim had the corniest sense of humor; he never forgot jokes and would repeat them ceaselessly, his blue eyes twinkling over freckles and under a mop of reddish hair. He had an easy, natural laugh.
There was nothing he and I could not discuss, no secrets, no embarrassment, no shame.
I am blessed to still have one or two close friends, but not exactly like that. As I type this with tears in my eyes, I feel the emptiness. I know I will never have a closer friend.
I will down that mini-bottle of Dewar's in Jim's honor, and I offer you this idea:
Say goodbye while you can.