--Ralph Waldo Emerson
His name was Win and he was my very good friend. My friend.
For fifteen years, he was a spiritual mentor in our shared faith, someone I could always count upon for support and advice. Though eight years ago I moved away from the town we both called home, I always just somehow trusted that I could return there and return to him, for a cup of coffee, and catching up, and then some wise advice on how to live this life. We all need our “Wins”, dependable people, wise people, gentle guides who walk with us and remind us, as only a true friend can, that we are better than we might think we are, at any given moment. That ‘this too shall pass”. That things will work out, by the grace of God and with the passage of time. Whenever I spent time with Win, I always felt better afterwards, about myself and my life. That’s what friends do. What friends give each other. Confidence. Hope.
Every human being needs at least one “Win” in this life to lean upon, a “go to” person we always return to for guidance and care, for friendship. A sibling whom we call faithfully each and every week, who’s grown up with us from the start, marked the march of days with us. A college friend, who’s always stayed in touch, knows us better than we know ourselves, makes us laugh and puts things in perspective. A former teacher or coach who is always reminding us that we can do it. A childhood chum who’s stayed by our side from that day on the playground so long ago when we first met.
Bound to us not by blood or obligation or duty or history or vows, but instead by one simple shared desire: to be known and accepted by another person, unconditionally. A friend: who stays with us not because they have to but because they want to. A friend: who embraces us just as we are, warts and all, never grudgingly but instead joyfully. A friend: who really listens to us and hears us. To have a friend and to be a friend: day by day, year by year, life by life.
There is something so spiritually serendipitous about these rare friendships, these precious gifts from God. We can’t plan them: who becomes, or does not become, our friend, is wholly unpredictable. Friendships just happen. They are organic. On paper, Win and I certainly weren’t well matched to become friends. He was thirty years my senior. He was a talented and well known high tech executive who easily moved through circles of power and influence. He was a father and grandfather many times over. And yet for all our differences, we always found common ground for connection and conversation. That’s what it means to be a friend and have a friend: to somehow be bound to another not by the external but by the internal. To be kindred spirits, perhaps.
Late last month I found out that Win had suddenly passed away. As sometimes happens in friendships, we hadn’t spoken for a year, not out of neglect, but out of busyness on both of our parts. I knew he’d had health struggles and I had planned, soon, to reach out and reconnect. I so wish I had. But I trust that Win’s already forgiven me for this. That’s another gift an old friend offers. Forgiveness. Allowance for our shared humanity
So here’s my simple charge for all of us on this mid October autumnal day, as the colorful leaves begin to tumble from the trees. The season turns and we are reminded that all of life, all of our friendships, all things: these are mortal and eventually come to an end, at least on this side of the grass. Just today: be a good friend. Reach out to a friend. Pray for your friends, for those friends are truly a gift from our God.
And Win? Thank you for being my friend.