The Greatest Gift
I have some wonderful friends. A few are relatively new but some have been close for decades.
Among my friends are the people who go unnamed but know I am writing of and to them. We’ve been together, you and I, through births and miscarriages, splendid weddings and broken marriages, growing children and dying parents. We’ve wept together in hard times and found ways to support each other. We’ve giggled together at moments of ridiculous joy, even marched together when we believed in the cause.
Friends like you have become more rare with time. A hundred years ago, most people lived in a single community from early-adulthood to old age. They didn’t change jobs, mates, congregations or neighborhoods. They were near each other physically, making it easier (and sometimes harder) to build intimate, sustained relationships.
Not so now. Although I’ve spent much of my adulthood in-and-out of Florida, since leaving Michigan I’ve spent chunks of time in New York, Maryland, Arizona and (now) California. I changed houses and communities. With time, my interests shifted from one form of art to another, each with its own heroes and practitioners and, thus, each with its own community. Although I never intended it, I moved from one group to another, sometimes losing touch with dear people along the way. My children grew into adults, and my interests grew with them especially when I first held my granddaughter.
I haven’t been as faithful in my friendships as I wish I had. For months and, in some instances, years I’ve owed you a card or letter, a thank-you or I’m-sorry. I wonder why someone has grown silent but I haven’t broken the silence with a call or even an email. I love many of you more than you know, I really do. But I haven’t reached out enough to express that love and I wish I had.
To the good friends who’ve been in my life through all the ups and downs, know this: You are still very much in my life now. I wonder and worry about how you’re doing in dealing with cancer, in living with dementia, in looking for purpose and meaning beyond your extraordinary careers. Is your family intact? Are your dreams still alive? Have I failed you in any way?
Seeing you now in my mind’s eye I’m grateful for you, My Friend. I would not be who I am were it not for you.
Although I might have doubted the political stance of The Happy Warrior, Hubert H. Humphrey, I’ve never doubted the truth of his reflection when he knew his own life was nearing its end: “The greatest gift of life is friendship,” he said, “and I have received it.”