Over the past few weeks, I have been reminded a few times, in a few different ways, of the value of friendship. My first reminder came on Thanksgiving Day. I spent my day as many of you probably did, watching the parade in the morning, snuggled on the couch with the girls. Oh wait - I watched part of the parade from the couch - the other part I watched from the kitchen as I baked pumpkin pies. Mom came over before dinner and we spent some time just catching up while going through the ads for Black Friday. As we got ready to go to dinner at my brother and sister's house, I gathered up my things along with my cell phone and noticed that I had a voice mail. Cell reception in my house is notoriously bad, so I wasn't surprised that the phone had not even rung. But I was surprised at the message. It was my friend Arran, someone I have known for almost 20 years (as strange as it is for me to say that.) We met in college when he came to visit a friend who lived in the same dorm as me and I was hanging out with friends in the guys' hall. Despite the usual ups and downs of our respective lives, the passage of more than 15 years, countless moves to several different states, various boyfriends, girlfriends, break-ups and a marriage (mine,) we have stayed friends. He was even in my wedding. We have survived much that life has thrown at us and have shared much of our lives with each other. Not always as it has happened, but there have certainly been some late night and early morning (thanks to the time difference) phone calls. He was there when my life hit a particular low, one of the first people that I called, and I was able to be there for him when his Dad passed away, something that I know was incredibly tough for him.
Through it all, I am happy to say that we have remained friends. So why was this a reminder to me? Because sometimes I think that some of my friends do a better job at "friendship" than I do. His call was just to say hello and tell me that he was thinking of me and wishing me a happy holiday, "love" to my family. It was a wonderful message and I was touched. At the same time, I was a bit ashamed because, for all of the times that I might think of him and wonder how he's doing, how many times do I pick up the phone and say hello?
My second reminder came last week, again through my cell phone. It rang and I did not recognize the number and was up to my elbows in Kensi's toys and fun. After putting her down for a nap, I checked my voice mail. It was my friend Val, just checking in. I met Val back in 2007 through a random set of circumstances. I registered for a weekend scrapbooking event in Anaheim and through various online discussions, connected with several other women from Valencia who were also going to the event. We met up several times before the event and have remained friends (albeit some closer than others) since then. Our little group has added a few members here and there and a few children since 2007, but we still get together to scrapbook and check in on each other. Val's husband has a job that requires moves from time to time, and so in 2010 (I think,) we had to say goodbye as she moved to Texas. We've tried to stay in touch and she has visited a few times, even staying with me. Despite the distance and the random start to our friendship, I count her among my closest friends. Her message was just to say hello and to tell me that she as thinking of me. She was also wondering if I had started my holiday baking yet (I have and my freezer is running out of cookie room!) I was again touched that a friend would reach out to me, just to say hello and again ashamed - another person being a better friend to me than I might be to her.
The next day I sat down and wrote her an email. I apologized for not getting her call and told her how much her friendship means to me, even though I may not get the chance to say it that often. I hope to do a better job at connecting with my friends, using Val's example.
My last recent reminder of friendship was, unfortunately, a sad one. Just last week, while checking Facebook, I saw a post by a high school friend, saying "good bye" to someone that graduated with my sister, Candy. Matt Kover was a larger-than-life presence that I remembered well from high school, even though he graduated a few years ahead of me. Always ready with a joke and able to make the crowd laugh, I remember his big bear hugs. After reading my friend's post of good-bye to Matt, I scoured facebook and all of my Jefferson connections to see if there was more information. At the time, there was little. Over the next few days, I learned that Matt had passed unexpectedly, something related to a diabetic coma or insulin problem. I touched base with several friends back home who knew him well and was added to his Facebook page where people began to leave messages. I was saddened by his passing because I think he was one of the good ones - someone who lived his life for others, intent on making people laugh and feel good just to be around him. I haven't seen Matt in years, but was immediately reminded of him through the posts of his close friends. Sadly, many posts spoke of time past since seeing Matt and wishes for a closer relationship.
Matt's passing reminded me, again, of the value and blessing of friendships and of the uncertainty of life. No matter how careful we are or how routine our lives, something can change in the blink of an eye and suddenly our course is changed, our lives are different and someone that we love very much could be gone. I, for one, am going to make an effort to change - to tell my friends that they are important to me. It can start with a personal note in the holiday cards, a quick telephone call just to say hello. I'm lucky to say that I have friends in many states, and even a few in other countries. I will be reaching out to all of them this holiday season. I do not want another day to pass without those people knowing that they are important to me.
Perhaps I met you as a child, or in high school. Maybe we had class together in college or commiserated about professors in law school. Odds are, if you are reading this, we have maintained a connection and for that, I am grateful. We may not speak every day, or even once a week. But I check in on you from time to time. I see your photos and your posts and I know that you are doing o.k. I hope to do a better job of just saying "hello" and letting you know that someone is thinking about you. I hope that if you happen to think about me, you'll do the same.
Let's make an effort to stay better connected. It sounds cliche, but if I have learned anything over the past few weeks, it is that life can be short. We should take advantage of the time we have, starting right now.