Friends Lost and Found

by Bob Schwartz

We lose friends lots of ways. One tragic way is to allow friendship to fade over time.

Friendship is treated and valued differently by everyone. It is personal, individual, no right or wrong for everyone, no better or worse for everyone.

Friendships often begin by chance and happenstance, but then require intention, attention, and maintenance. The easy beginning is one reason we forget that, as we forget many important matters while tending to the inconsequential.

Friendships, of a certain deep kind, are able to seemingly pick up the moment a lapsed connection is renewed, even after years. It shows that the tissue of the original connection was so strong, so almost meant to be, that it could withstand neglect.

But that realization is bittersweet. In it are the lost laughs and mutual mirror and sharing that might have been. And that ultimately, at some point, might be no more.

Is it hypocritical to remind others to cherish and cultivate friendship, when you yourself have left some—many—of those struggling on the vine? Then consider it a morsel of wisdom and cautionary tale. You may have lots of friends or few. They may be friendships that are deep or shallow, new or aged. But if you look inside to see just what kind of friend and friendship it is, you will know. And if it is that special sort of friend and friendship, consider how unique it might be for you, how that friend is a piece of a treasure you maybe stumbled upon and can’t replace and won’t replace.

This Christmas I learned, in reply to a holiday message to a too much ignored friend, that he is dying. I tried hard not to be self-centered, thinking about what I had lost, the years of conversations that could have been had, that I missed, that would have been a joy. He was losing his life, and the petty me was sad for having missed what I might have, with a little more effort, had.

You can rationalize these lapses as the way things happen and the way life goes. You can say, as long lost friends often do, that it goes both ways, that A is just as capable as B of picking up the phone or sending an email. But as with all our sensible perspectives, sense doesn’t matter.

For what it is worth, here is the message I sent out to him that got the reply from his wife. It may sound like I knew something about what was going on in his life, and maybe I did. Maybe I just knew that all of us are dying. Mostly I knew what I know about true treasure and how tricky it can be to find and keep it. So keep it, please.

I don’t know what to say about the passage of time. But we both know, or at least I hold the conceit, that some friendships survive that, even if not well tended. Maybe I’m wrong. Don’t know how much if at all I am any part of you, but you, my friend, are always a part of me.