There are so many things you wish you could say to someone once that person is gone.
"Thank you" doesn't even begin to cover it.
I knew someone whose gesture of kindness to me, an unexpected gesture at that, spared me a lifetime of recriminations.
How do you say "thank you" for such a gift and leave at it that? I'll spend the rest of my life trying to answer that question and to repay that timeless gesture from a friend.
It was September 2008, and my dad was in hospice care and fading fast while the priest I wanted to attend to him was out of the country.
Time and my father were slipping through my fingers.
Then this friend who was a work acquaintance we exchanged pleasantries and bantered about family and faith called me.
"Do you need a priest?"
She had heard about my situation and wanted to help.
I declined, but she persisted. "It's really no trouble."
It's really no trouble? It seemed like a lot of trouble.
OK, I said, and didn't really think anything of it. When I called my friend to say it was time, I expected an excuse, but no. The friend would be there at night, after work, with the priest.
And then, on a cool and still evening, they were there and I was stunned. The friend led the priest into my dad's room and then stayed with me prayed with me as the priest tended to my father.
I couldn't believe the generosity and recognized that it was a bigger gesture than I had ever really shown anyone in my life.
I felt gratitude and a twinge of shame for not being capable of being as open-hearted as this friend was being with me.
The next day, Dad died. And in the moment, a thought occurred to me: If not for this friend, Dad would have died without seeing a priest. His Catholicism meant a lot to him and I never would have forgiven myself if he had passed from this earth without that final ritual.
I thanked my friend profusely and told her how much it meant to me, and she looked at me like I was nuts.
"Of course," she said, as if what she had done was akin to lending me 50 cents to buy a soft drink in The Bee's newsroom.
It was so much more than that.
On Monday, that friend Bee reporter Jennifer Garza died after a courageous fight against cancer. She was 50, only six months older than me.
Such things in life can't be explained. We can only try to make sense of them in time and to remember to pay those gifts forward. Kindness. Caring. Love.
For the rest of my life, I'll try to be worthy of the gift Jennifer gave me and to pass on her example of being open-hearted to others.
I can never say thank you enough.