February 04, 2012

Meditations on Friendship

My beautiful neighbour from across the street died yesterday from cancer, leaving behind his wife and 13 year old son,  who started high school just last week.  Michael was a wonderful man, a good family man who had many friends in our street.

I last saw Michael last Wednesday when I was at the Hospital with Jack after his fall from the top bunk.  He was being admitted with an infection. I chatted to him and his wife for a while before I knelt down beside him and told him what an amazing son he had and what a wonderful job he is doing as a father. He looked at me and thanked me.  Then I had to go.

I spoke with Michael's best friend a few days ago.  He had been sitting with Michael in hospital the previous night for hours having some very deep conversations.  They were holding hands and as he went to leave,  Michael had trouble letting go.

It makes me think of friends and the importance of having at least a few really good ones in your life.  Dr Woog is not only my father in law,  but he is also a really good friend of mine.  And here, he shares his thoughts on friendship.

We all have friends. An old school friend; a friend of the family; a friend I work with. I have a lot of these. Most of these are not friends but a result of a situational relationship, which for the sake of convenience or because of a lack of an adequate vocabulary, we label, friends. These friends come and go and for a time become part of life. I don’t rejoice in their coming or grieve particularly when they go.

Friendship is more than ritualised relationships. In a friend can be found rewarding and what is often thought of as the most ennobling of human character. Some of these are; loyalty, dependability, constancy, care and forgiveness. But is this the main basis of friendship? A relationship may be enriched by the presence of these characteristics but it may also imply dependence and not necessarily an interdependence of one on another.

What of friendship which brings a feeling of comfort, a gift of well being, a fulfilment of need which is felt but goes unnamed or unexpressed. It is pre-empting and preventing self-doubt or dark fears even before they manifest. In this way friendship sooths your way of being. Such friends, I have but a few.

My friend Tom in Vermont invites people to an annual event, the final for his Universities basketball season. Different people come on different year. I do not go, but he has sent me an invitation, without fail, for the last twenty five years.

My friend Tony, with whom I studied in Dublin 35 years ago, rang one night. He said, we saw the bush fires on television and know that they are not close to where you are but tell me where can we send money for those affected.

My friend from school, Michael, whom I had not seen for 45 years, sat down behind me at my mother’s funeral.

There is a saying that you choose your friends. But you are blessed when friendship chooses you.

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