Over the years my wife and I have collected quite the group of friends. A quick look at a U.S. map and I count actual friends – in the flesh, not Facebook – in 17 states. They span many decades and include friends going as far back as elementary school. I could show up at any of these friends’ door and pick up a conversation as if the intervening years had never happened. And in times of crisis, forever friends are good to have.
“And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
Cause the welcome will not end”
I’m laying in my hospital bed and in walks Casey. I’ve known him since we moved to Tennessee in 1995 and he was just a kid, fresh out of school and a fierce competitor on the car lot. We were selling cars like candy bars and forged a friendship that endures – he would do anything for me and is my go-to car guy. And I saw the pain behind his big smile as he witnessed his old friend laid low. Casey got to watch me attempt my first steps and I really think it hurt him as much as it did me. But shared pain is the bond of friendship.
“You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Knowing I was going to need some safety upgrades at home, and also knowing I couldn’t turn a screwdriver any time soon, I called my old friend Mark. We go back over 20 years and he has been my most reliable source for projects beyond my ability – he built my mom’s apartment in our house and just recently added a ½ bath for our pool. Now Mark’s a sensitive sort and was thrilled to hear from me and I knew his tears were real – he really cared that I was okay. Mark keeps a key to my house (now there’s a friend!) and went by to install bars in the bathroom. And he and his wife Billie did it to bless us, not accepting anything in return. I have returned the favor by not falling down in the bathroom!
“A true friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17
Some of my closest friends are more recent, like Dale & Sharon. I met Dale through the real estate business (he’s a mortgage lender) and they have become fast friends. They are Yankee transplants so they needed some local folks and we hang out, eat, drink and laugh together routinely. Dale has a big radio voice (he used to DJ) and hearing his voice in the hospital was like a breath of fresh air. Ironically, the mosquito that bit me must have been at their wedding that I officiated in Gulf Shores, because that’s how I got EEE to start with. We can laugh about it now – I’m sure that bug wasn’t invited. And we have a story to share for years to come.
“Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9
Because of social media, word gets around fast when you have trouble and one of my oldest friends messaged me to see if we could talk. We have known Brad & Rochelle since we got married in DC back in 1984. Brad and I used to hang out with our kids together – both of us were househusbands and our wives were in the Navy. We always had a good time together, but the funny thing is I haven’t seen them in the flesh since 1987! We talked as if that was only yesterday with that easy exchange only possible with friends. They have promised to come see us from Kansas as soon as I’m a bit better, and I can’t wait for that fun to happen!
“Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.” Proverbs 18:24
Diana taught with Mary for many years and I first met her husband John at a Halloween party. I wasn’t sure what to do with this guy at first, but we have become solid friends. He’s an engineer but I like to introduce him as a retired pirate – he loves to sail and nearly always has his head wrapped in a bandana. They are educated, articulate, fun and most of all truly sweet people (the pirate part notwithstanding!). John and Mary showed up at rehab with a large pepperoni pizza from Community Pie – and a good bottle of red wine. Unfortunately, the doctor put the nix on the wine and, like true friends, they decided to not drink without me.
“God loves the pure-hearted and well-spoken; good leaders also delight in their friendship.” Proverbs 22:11
I could do this all day and hate to leave out the many others who checked on me, looked after my wife, did good deeds and in general were friends in time of my trouble. But to you all, Kay and Mike, Mitchell and Dorota, Nolan and Darlene, Brian and Sue, Kirk and Darlene, Christopher and Britney, Ken and Michelle, Marc, Carey, know you are loved and considered friends forever. There are many others that reached out and forgive me for not calling out those who provided meals, cards, calls and love to us. We would not have made it without you.
When this existence fades away, the only thing leaving this planet and going to the next is relationships. I cannot imagine enduring this calamity without good friends. And I hope I can be that kind of friend when you are in need.
“In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends”
Lyrics: Michael W. Smith, 1985