This morning I received a call from Don, someone I consider to be my best friend (other than my wife). Don called to tell me that, following a bout with Alzheimer’s disease, his mother died at around 5:00 AM this morning. My heart went out to Don as he described his Mom’s last moments on her journey of life. As a friend, I wanted to be there for him. The challenge is that Don is living in Barrington, Illinois and I’m in Austin, Texas. As I talked and a tear rolled down my face, I so wanted to say, “I’ll be over in a few minutes.” Yet I knew I couldn’t be physically.
So Don kept talking and I kept listening. I have always admired Don for his intelligence, sense of humor, and unstoppable desire to give of himself to others. It’s good that he is that way. It makes him one of the best clergymen I have ever known. Although I am Jewish and Don is Lutheran, we have always felt a common bond in belief … a belief that there is one God for all people. I felt that God was there for him, but I wanted to be there for him too.
After the long conversation was over and I hung up the phone, I realized that as much as I wanted to be there for him physically, to give him a hug and help him with anything I could provide at this difficult time in his life, I was there for him in many other ways. The idea of “being there” for a friend does not necessarily mean you have to be there physically. If he or she is indeed a true friend you’re dealing with, then they will feel that you are there when you reach out in any way you can. When I think of the wonderful combination of the law of attraction and that there is a God for all people, I realize that we are put together with our friends to bridge a physical and geographical gap and distance.
Being there for a friend means establishing a presence that can take a number of forms. We should be thankful for the fact that we have friends to comfort and be with, rather than worry about what form “being there” takes at that particular moment.
Today I came across yet some more buzz about the kind of work we do at LifeStories Alive http://www.lifestoriesalive.com/ . Sue Shellenbarger recently wrote a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Life Stories: Children Find Meaning in Old Family Tales”. She is featured on a blog called The Juggle – “WSJ.com on choices and tradeoffs people make as they juggle work and family”. Please her read a recent post “Passing on Life Lessons Through Family Stories” http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2009/03/11/passing-on-life-lessons-through-family-stories/ .
Sometimes it’s hard for people to realize that the connection to our past is not found in facts alone, but are truly remembered through stories. And the best way to remember those stories is to record them while the storytellers, the people who lived the stories, are still around!
Linda and I just returned from spending the afternoon with our friends, Gary Powell http://www.garypowell.com/ and Amy Person http://persontherapy.com/ . We gathered at Gary’s home with some other friends to celebrate Gary’s birthday (I won’t say which birthday it is, but Gary, one of the most talented music composers and producers on the planet, is looking and feeling great at his age!). We knew going into this that today’s agenda included “playing games”. Linda and I are not much into games, but this turned out to be a blast.
We played games that Gary made up over the years. Just one example is Wokball. This consisted of bouncing ping pong balls over two obstacles and into an empty metal wok so that the balls stay in the wok. While at first it sounded a bit silly, it ended up being a lot of fun, which brings me to the point of this post … don’t forget to have fun the old-fashioned way, by playing with friends.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, you should break from the routine of what you usually do with friends and just play. When I interview people in my work at LifeStories Alive http://www.lifestoriesalive.com/ , I make it a point to ask questions about what they did for fun as kids with their friends. The answers in every case include the person’s face lighting up as they describe the fun things they did. So why should those memories, those experiences that make our faces light up, be reserved for our younger years? Why not make new joyous memories now?
As we said our good-byes we all agreed that we should do this more often. Willa Cather once wrote, “Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”
So I say to our friends Gary and Amy, “Thanks for the memories. Let’s make more of them more often”. And to those of you reading this, there are friends of yours just waiting for you to make new memories with. Just be sure to have some old-fashioned fun making them!