The greatest Christmas gift I’ve ever received happened a month ago. My best friend of thirty-one years stepped off a plane and said, “It’s been too long.”
Thirteen long years passed since we’d last said hello and squealed with delight. Seamlessly the years fell away. We’d been separated when my career moved me halfway around the world. We kept our friendship alive by talking for hours on the phone.
Our friendship blossomed in the early 80’s, before e-mail and free long distance was a reality. It was a concerted effort to stay connected. Time zones were the least of our problems. I knew in my heart of hearts that my best friend would never leave me and I felt the same about her. Our meetings, wherever they occurred, were joyful.
As I write Christmas cards this holiday season I realize the list is shorter with each passing year. I’m saddened by the number of friends I’ve allowed to slip–from not just my Christmas list but from my life.
I could blame the falling away of some friends on my career moving me about like a tumbleweed in the wind—but that was an aspect of my career that I loved. It was my responsibility to stay in touch.
I’ve discovered it’s not safe to assume a friend will always be with me. Where do I start when I think I’ve located a friend from my past life? A friend I allowed to disappear against my better judgment. A friend I knew I would always want to know how they were, where they were, what they would be doing. Did they ever think about me too? Who have they become? What would they want me to know or would they want me to know anything?
So many special friends have slipped through my fingers, without my even knowing they were leaving. I didn’t know I would never see or hear from them again. My heart aches. Often I’ve been the person leaving—how heartless of me. How could it have been so simple—or was it simple—to walk away as if there would always be someone just as special to take their place.
Could a career that moves us about like so many loose leaves in an autumn wind causes us to become cavalier about friendship? Regardless, although we left, or they left, we never really let go. Can we place the leaves back on the friendship tree and watch it turn green again—bending with the wind but hold fast when the hurricane forces of life sweep past us?
This holiday season I hope you are surrounded by friends—both old and new—and most importantly, by those you love at your side.