As I write this, a good friend of mine is lying in a hospital bed in the Critical Care Unit at St. Francis Hospital. He is fighting to survive after suffering a pulmonary embolism at age 50. When I heard about his situation, I was sitting with two customers and a coworker at lunch at a nice little restaurant in Warsaw, Kentucky. It was all I could do to contain my emotions for the duration of the lunch. Even contained, my emotion was evident. As soon as I could, I broke free of them and headed home so I could get to the hospital.
Last year, I lost another friend. He had a massive heart attack at age 52. He died alone in his home over a weekend, and it was a day or two before anyone found him.
These two situations have made me think about how we (I) tend to take our (my) friends for granted. When I got word about the hospitalized friend, it had been months since we had spoken and perhaps a couple of years since we had spent any time at all together, and even longer since it was “just us.” When word passed to me about the death of my other friend, it had been almost a year since I had spent any time with him. I still can’t believe he is gone, and I often think about calling him when I’m down close to where he lived.
You know, some people change friends like they change shirts just jumping from one to the next, to the next. That has never been the case with me. If you become my friend, it is very difficult to get me to drop you. If you look down my friends list on Facebook, you’ll find people I’ve become friends with very recently, and you’ll find people like Tena and Cheryl whom I’ve considered my friends since I was just a small boy.
That being said, I am ashamed to say that I have neglected a great many of those friendships. Some of that neglect is natural, I guess. We’ve grown up and gone in many different directions in life. I’ve moved. They’ve moved. I’ve gained responsibility. They’ve gained responsibility. Situations change. It is the nature of life, I suppose.
Some of those disconnected friendships, are really surprising when you suddenly realize that it’s been 15 or 20 years since you last spoke. I mean, when you parted the last time, you had no idea that you wouldn’t connect again for so long….right? At least that has been the case with me. I had no intention of letting that much time go by. A few days become a few weeks, weeks become years, people move, phone numbers change, and the next thing you know, they are just gone like they fell of the face of the earth or something.
I mentioned Facebook earlier. That little creation has done wonders for reconnecting old friends. I mean, I have reestablished friendships that I had thought were long lost. I’ve found people that I previously had absolutely no idea how to find. Some of the most recent are Collin, Jerry, Karen, and James. I love that.
You see, I really cherish friendships. What is life without friends? Some are closer than others just naturally, but regardless, they are all very important. I really like the quote from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Clarence the Angel leaves his little Mark Twain book for George Bailey, and he writes this quote inside the front cover: “No man is a failure who has friends.” That statement is so very true!
So back to my friend in the hospital, I visited him today. He was lying there with so many tubes running from him that I couldn’t readily count them all. He was sedated. He had a ventilator tube running out of his mouth so a machine could help him breathe. There he was…my friend whom I’ve been taking for granted…fighting for his life. I told him to keep fighting. I told him that when he got better and got out of there, we were going to go to a late movie like we used to. I pray that happens.
To you who are reading this…find an old friend and reconnect this week. The fact is that they will NOT always be there.