It was around November of 1999. My fiancée (now wife) and I were sitting in the dining area of a local Barnes & Noble book store. As we were discussing some pertinent details of our wedding that was eight months away, we happened to notice a sharp-looking couple seated at a table right next to us. What really caught our eye was the book the young lady was immersed in. The title “Jesus, CEO” piqued our interest and seemed to indicate that these were fellow believers in our midst. When my gal asked this particular young lady “Is that a good book?” we had no idea that would be the beginning of a blessed friendship.
Within a month of that initial meeting, Greg & Ruth Bittner invited us to their home for dinner.
For the next few months, however, our correspondence consisted mainly of telephone and e-mail communication. We quickly learned that Greg & Ruth were folks who thrived on the busyness of life.
It was around late May of 2000 when our wedding was fast approaching. I was in the process of cleaning out my apartment since I would have a new residence as of that July. As luck would have it, Greg & Ruth would be having a garage sale. I brought over a microwave and a few other items I would no longer need. While Greg greeted us when we stopped by their home, we regretfully were unable to say hi to Ruth as she was a bit under the weather. A week or so later, we learned why Ruth had been so fatigued. She was carrying their first child, due in January 2001!
We would see Greg & Ruth again the day of our wedding. We had known this couple all of eight months and had visited with them in person on maybe two or three occasions. Yet we felt such a strong connection with them that we requested they attend our nuptials.
Ruth and Greg at our wedding reception, 7/7/2000.
In the six-plus years we have known Greg & Ruth they shared in the joy of our wedding and we were privileged to meet their son when he was less than a week old. We have also shared their sorrow in the passing of Ruth’s father.
I have to say that one of the defining moments of our friendship took place this past Father’s Day weekend. Greg & I had the opportunity to host a two-hour talk show on AM 1500 KSTP on that Sunday. While we were at his home on that Saturday prepping for our on-air excursion, Greg shared some memories of his father, who has been deceased since 1990. I had known Greg’s father had passed away but I never knew how to delicately inquire about the circumstances surrounding his passing. It was in preparing for our Father’s Day radio show that I realized the genuine love Greg had for his father and how much he truly misses his Dad to this day. I can't tell you how incredibly flattered I was that another man would share with me such deep-rooted sentiments about his father.
Greg & I having fun on the radio, 6/19/2005.
There are so many more wonderful anecdotes I could share regarding our friendship with Greg & Ruth. From our “fireside chats” to the mindless fun at a Weird Al Yankovic concert to our experience at witnessing the film “The Passion of the Christ”, we have created some life-long memories.
So it is on this day, March 8, 2006 that I would like to recognize yet another milestone in the life of one Gregory P. Bittner.
Happy 40th birthday, my friend!
Whether you realize it or not, your friendship has truly been a gift from God.