When I was four I met a boy. He had a cheeky smile, a mischievous glint in his eye and the most genuine and welcoming heart. We became friends.
As the years passed, we remained friends. Through good times and some frankly awful times.
During our twenties we drifted apart; no fault, just busy lives in different cities. But if you’d asked me, his name would have always been right up there on my friends list.
He was a forever friend.
My adult life has been spent in several different cities. I have made friends, lost friends, re-found friends. Circumstance has often resulted in less than perfect attempts at keeping in touch, and a lot of guilt.
I am well aware of the transient nature of many friendships.
I have spent far too much time beating myself up over the loss of friendships that meant so much at a certain point in my life. But, not all friendships survive, and I’m not sure that all are meant to.
I do however place great value on those that endure, even when distance and time conspire to end them.
Those rock-solid friends that are, at all times, alive and present in our hearts and minds, even when we do not see them.
Those friends that you can go for months, or even years without speaking to, then sit down for a chat as if you saw them yesterday.
Good friends are like stars. You might not always see them, but you know they’re always there.
If we have even a handful of those friends, we are very lucky.
Eventually my friend and I both returned to our home city (as so many of us do). We each found our happy ever afters and settled into the rest of our lives.
That cheeky smile and mischievous glint made a welcome return to my life.
And, we had all the time in the world. When life got busy, there was always next week. When chaos descended, there was always next time.
Then he got sick.
My friend was one of those people who could light up a room. Always smiling, always ready to laugh. He took everything life threw at him, and believe me it threw him some awful balls, and looked for the positive.
Found the good, found the reason.
And, when there was no reason? Well, he had faith.
I often envied him that certainty, that ability to see the good where, in all honesty, there was little to be seen.
He was a good man.
That four-year old boy with the generous and welcoming heart was still there. In that smile.
The first time he was ill we never doubted he would get better. Because he deserved to get better. He was the best of us, there was simply no way there wouldn’t be a happy ending.
And, we were right.
But then he got sick again.
Different disease, the worst one of all.
We were all equally positive, if rather more shaken inside that we would ever let on.
He would beat this too.
As years pass, we hold on to certain events, certain memories, certain friendships and as our lives take us in different directions, we remain drawn to certain places and people.
We have an expectation that they will always be there. We take them for granted.
We think we have all the time in the world.
But, sometimes we don’t.
Last week I had to say goodbye to my friend. I mean, how do you even do that? Say goodbye to someone that has been a part of your life for 37 years.
I struggled to find the right words in those last few weeks. Worried about saying the wrong thing. Held off sending the random thoughts that popped into my head.
I should have sent him more silly messages, more photos. I should have said more, told him more.
I should have been a better friend.
I thought I had all the time in the world.
As I sit here, wrapped in my quiet grief, heart breaking for his family, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to say goodbye, to tell him how lucky I was to have known him and how much he would be missed.
I am angry that I had to.
But, I am grateful that I had the chance.
It seems that everywhere we look someone is reminding us that life is short. To grab opportunities, to make our time count, to find the joy in every day.
To take the leap. Not wait for tomorrow, or the best time or the right time. To live in the moment.
Laugh loudly, love deeply, live well.
I write this post in memory of my wonderful friend; the world is a smaller, sadder place without him, but so much brighter for having known him.
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