I’ve known some of my friends for many years. I think of Jeff with who I’ve been in recent e-mail contact. We’ve known each other for sixty years or more. Then there is Tom. He and I worked together for less than a year in 1960, and we’ve stayed in touch over the years.
There are also folks from my days at theological college, Dave and Alison, Les and Jeni, Keith, Colin.
And those I got to know in the various parishes I served, some of my colleagues of course, but – I mostly think of people such of Joe and Dee (they were never parishioners), Joe and Marliese, and a handful of parishioners in the four congregations who’d become very dear to me. Good folks, Good friends.
I moved to Sarasota, FL in 2006 in part because I knew some folks in this area. I already had friends in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.
There was Bruce (now deceased) who’d been a colleague in Massachusetts – I’d known him for 30 years, (and Bruce’s partner Ben who I’d gotten to know about six years before I moved here).
And there was Kay and Barbara who’d been parishioners in Pittsfield.
I’ve also been able to enter into a whole new circle of friends – folks with whom I hang out, have lunch or dinner, enjoy parties, chat with at Church, or go to the Opera. In truth these people are somewhere in my mind between acquaintances and friends. They’re probably best described as “pals”.
Many people think that I do a fairly decent job of keeping in touch with my friends and acquaintances of long standing. But you know, I get a to point when ‘phone calls or e-mails are all “one way” – with no response - that I “sort of” give up - not on the friendships, but on the hope that they will be sustained.
There are somewhere between five and ten people – no more – who I think of as close friends. Some are family members.
These are the people who are the very first on my list when I have some good news to share, or some hard times to talk about. And they are the people who will similarly be in early touch with me to share their joys and their sorrow.
The close friends are also those who get together with me in person or by ‘phone simply to chit-chat. We are able to enjoy prolonged conversations with no agenda or no “angles”.
As I think about my friends, historical new, lost, or close, I have a sense of the ones I value most highly. This is why I do so.
I imagine that I’d been told that there are only six months before my death.
These valuable friends, I call them good companions, are those I’d do my best to visit and enjoy in my waning months.
There is also a smaller group, those who are closest to my heart.
They are the ones who I'd want to be with me during the final two or three days of my life.
Would to God that I will be so blessed.