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True Friendship is Forever

A high school friend, classmate and a successful lawyer, passed on last week. His death, after a long illness, made me realize that our generation, known as the Swinging Sixties with our penchant for rock & roll music, social protests and flamboyance, is now in the last leg of our proverbial trek into the sunset.

The older I get, and whenever I am in my quiet moment, I have the proclivity to look back into the past. It’s like watching the movie of my life featuring a continuous live stream of the hometown guys I played with when I was growing up; the many youthful indiscretions that made me to be more discerning as an adult; the social and political activities I was involved in that instilled in me to fight for justice; the countless number of people I crossed paths with whose individual stories helped me understand our common aspirations more than our differences; my family that has always been a source of strength and instrumental in many of my successes; and many more life experiences that were eventful and uneventful, but full of life lessons just the same.

What stands out, apart from the segment about my family, is a segment on why friendship matters more than ever.

Making friends was something I learned to do when I was growing up. It was not difficult for me to have friends because I loved being with people. It was natural for me to hobnob with people, especially with my peers. However, I did not know at a young age why I thrived being with people, I just knew I did.

When I was in grade school and high school, I hanged out with my classmates a lot and conversed with them about anything, including silly and crazy stuff, that oftentimes led to knowing and becoming at ease with one another. It was easier to make friends because we were all young and pretty much preoccupied with the same interests and activities. I learned early on that shared experiences oftentimes lead to friendship.

Friendship is very much part of living. It’s important that we surround ourselves with people whom we can trust and have fun with. At the end of the day, having friends enriches our lives and makes us better. It’s hard to live life meaningfully without friends.

Having friends brightens our life. Friends give us that cozy feeling because we have a close circle of people willing to listen to us, guide us, and comfort us in times of difficulty. Friends do a lot more than give us a shoulder to cry on. They make us realize that we are accepted as we are, with all our frailties and strengths.

Knowing that I matter is important for two reasons: First, I am respected and accepted for what I am including my limitations. In return, I get to freely share my views about anything with someone who accepts me. Second, I feel confident about myself, thereby forcing me to seek ways on how to be an active and positive person in a relationship.

But as I age and settle into the routines of family life, as the physical closeness among my friends becomes a thing of the past because of distance and separation, I soon realize that a few of my friends are now gone. It’s the worst feeling one can imagine.

When I hear that a friend passes on, the first thing I do is remember all the great memories. Prayers do not ease the pain. To be honest, dealing with the loss of a friend is severely difficult. This is the price of friendship that I am still learning to cope with.

When a friend dies, it’s like a member of my family dies. It’s hard to get over it. The pain may not be the same as losing a family member, but the pain is just as real and intense.

Going back to a good number of my high school friends who passed on, the similarities among us are obvious, which can be quite scary – same age, same marital status, and probably same frequency of seeing a doctor that has become a butt of jokes among us. And we all facetiously agree that we are already in the pre-departure area, waiting for the plane to take us to an unknown destination.

In his poem, With Rue My Heart Is Laden, A. E. Housman reminds us that everything in life is doomed to fade in time. Youth and beauty will one day vanish and the “lightfoot boys” and “rose-lipt girls” we met in our life, including our “golden friends,” will one day be sleeping in “fields where roses fade.” Here Housman is depicting through imagery the temporariness of everything, including life itself.

But true friendship, for whatever reason, is quite different. It is not temporary. It is not doomed to fade in time. It is forever. Many of my friends are now gone, but their memories remain and their spirit lives on in me.

There is no better way to end this article than to quote John Cassian, a monk and ascetic writer of Southern Gaul, “The bond between friends cannot be broken by chance; no interval time or space can destroy it. Not even death itself can part true friends.”

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