I settled into my usual spot this morning for some heavy duty pondering when, not unexpectedly, my buddy Stu wandered over, tray in hand, gently moved The Hat aside and settled into the chair across from me at my high-top table. I felt my throat tighten as I quickly closed my laptop and gave Stu, whose best friend Thomhad just passed away, my undivided attention.
Two hours passed quickly by as we reminisced about our relationships with Thom and each other over the past 33 years. We talked about all of the railroading we had done together, but we talked more about the camaraderie we shared that transcended the hobby. More than once the corner of Stu’s eye glistened as he recounted the times of need when his friend was there for him and how he returned the favor when his friend needed him. How often did we stop talking just to let the raw emotion pass before we could speak again? And when he said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do without him…” I truly began to understand the depth of their friendship.
It is a friendship that stands the test of time and distance. It stands the test of disagreement and frustration. It stands the test of personal strife and pain. It spills over into the rest of the family. It swells to engulf whole groups of people. It is a friendship that has a beginning, but no end.
Oh how I have missed that connection, that group of friends, that band of brothers and their families, as I moved on with my own family and my life. Friends often bridge time and distance like it was just yesterday. But what of the opportunities lost between those times, during those gaps when the relationship is left un-nurtured and ignored? Those lost opportunities become the seeds of regret and loneliness. And unfortunately for me, I have tended those seeds rather than those friendships far too long. Lesson experienced…and understood…but not yet applied.
I suspect we’ve all learned that lesson at least once, if not many times over. And I know that we sometimes make conscious decisions about friendships that no longer seem meaningful to us.
Many years ago my wife and I found a story about “little while” friends and shared it with our daughter when she made new friends during our week long camping trips, in hopes that she could appreciate those times when she might bond with someone for a time, only to leave that relationship behind as she continued on with her life.
I think it behooves us all to examine our relationships carefully, and recognize the difference between little while friends and lifelong friends. We can’t afford the mistake of casting off relationships thinking they were just little while friends and suffering the resulting pain of regret and loneliness instead of enjoying the love and happiness that comes from nurturing a group of lifelong friends, friends that become part of our earthly family.
For Stu and Thom it started with a meeting at a local hobby shop. It grew and flourished. And it won’t die just because Thom did. We all leave a legacy; part of Thom’s is an undying friendship.
What about yours … Pops