Another death. This is the third week in a row when a friend or relative has died. Two of them women who have died from cancer, too young.
It causes me to think a lot, mostly in gratitude but also with some regret.
The gratitude is especially for the gift of friendship. Friendship itself is a gift, in two important senses.
First, it is a gift to me that someone else is my friend. And friends do give us so much: they listen, with kindness and empathy, often tolerating our silly times as well as enjoying the good things we contribute to a relationship. Friends share the journey of life with us, and without them we would be very lonely indeed.
But there is another sense in which friendship is a gift. Some people are really good at being friends. Not just at 'making' friends, in the sense of meeting people and welcoming them, but in actually beginning relationships and, most importantly, in somehow continuing and building those relationships over time.
Time is clearly of the essence, and the good friends give the time. I suspect I am not very good at this. To make friendships and to be a friend seems to be part of the beauty of some people. They are just good at it. And they develop that gift.
There's another wonderful quality of such good friendships. We were thinking of this today as we spoke about our friend who died yesterday. There are some friendships which are, in some way, not affected by time. They are, of course: we all get older, family situation changes, and all that. Yet, somehow, there are friendships which are not affected even if we may not see each other for some time. We found this when we came home after living overseas for three years. In those days there was no email or blogging or even mobile phones. Letters only, to keep in touch. Some friendships did not last. I think they were based largely on the functional aspects of our situations, but also we found that these people could not grasp that we had changed, while they were still back where they were. Other friendships accommodated the changes, in us all, and we just continued on. These are rich gifts.
I have wonderful memories of such friends, and deep regrets that I have not been as good a friend to them as they have to me.
There are many good theological ideas about friendship, but right now I don't want to go there. I need just to stay with the memories and the regrets, and learn what I can from them.