By Kathy Koches
One of my favorite sayings is “A friend will come and bail you out of jail, but a good friend will be sitting there next to you saying “Damn, that was fun!”
Cicero says, “Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief”
There are lots of clichés about friendship, such as “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Oh, there are many of those. But let’s look beneath the surface and see what it really means to be a friend. A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.
When I moved to Mexico one of my friends gave me a little pillow that said “We have to be friends forever; you know too much!”
I have always been a “rescue ranger” for my family and my friends. I want to “fix” things, help in any way I can, make things better. And yes, a friend does this, with no thought to repayment or return favors.
I have a dear friend who is very, very ill, and has been for some time. She and I met as co-workers when we were in our early 30’s, and I have been there to care for her through several life-threatening surgeries and illnesses. Yet it is she that cheers me up, not vice versa, with her indomitable spirit.
I have another dear friend who signs her e-mails with the following quote:
“Friends are like the stars; you don’t always see them, but you always know they are there.”
This is a simple but profound statement. I have many friends that I have known for 30, 40 or even 50 years. In fact I have known my best friend almost 60 years. And yet when I see her or talk to her, it is as though the years melt away and we take up where we left off, be it weeks, months or even years since we were last together. A true friend reaches for your hand, but touches your heart.
But it is harder to be a friend when your task is to do nothing – to let your friend make her own decisions and follow whatever path she chooses, even when you think it might be the wrong choice. It is hard to just listen, truly listen, to what another is saying or feeling, rather than assume you understand or that you can “fix” the problem. Sometimes you need to be the friend who is there when someone falls, pick up the pieces and never says “I told you so.” Sometimes we need to be the friend who can share the pain, who can be silent in a moment of despair or confusion, can stay with someone in an hour of bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face the reality of our powerlessness. That is a friend who cares.
Friendship means understanding, not agreement. It means forgiveness, not forgetting. It means the memories last, even if the contact is lost. I have been fortunate to have many people I consider true friends in my life. I have had childhood friends, school friends, co-workers, UU friends, and, of course, my soul mate, who is also my best friend. Each one is different. Each one is unique. And I treasure each and every one of those friendships.
Since I was a child, I have loved this line from Winnie the Pooh:
“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
My favorite definition of a friend is this one: “A friend is someone who knows your heart’s song, and will sing it back to you when you forget the words.” I am truly blessed to have such friends.