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Reflections on Friendship October 2, 2014

Filed under: Reflections — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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Tomorrow morning, I have an appointment with a friend. I have to confess that I’m looking forward to it. Our last dialogue had a special rambling quality to it. A half-hour chat turned into two hours discussing a selection of topics as varied as socks and Socrates. It was a delightful exchange of thoughts and insights on everything from the trivial to the profound. And I walked away with several dozen fresh ideas with which to occupy my waking hours.

Among these was an unaddressed, but important thought regarding the nature of friendship. As a youth, I was quite confident that a true friend was someone who stuck with you through the hard times. They were someone you could call at 2 AM in full confidence that they’d drive half way across the State to help you out of a pickle. They could be relied upon to protect you when you were unfairly accused and, oft times, even when you weren’t. Like a wall, they stood between you and the world, giving you the chance to rest and recover your senses. They were there when things got rough… not just when it was convenient. And they were the sort of person who would be a part of your life forever.

As I aged, my perspective became more refined. I faced the startling realization that relationships change as we, ourselves change. People move out, move on, and pass away. Sometimes these transitions are gradual – a slow drifting over time. Other times, they are violent, premature terminations which leave us in pain. Those we thought would be there forever often aren’t. Yet even in their physical absence, they and what they have meant to us remain.

For good or for ill, I can still envision the faces of the friends of my youth. I can recall their names and the sound of their voices. I remember what they taught me and how their presence changed who I was an altered who I would become. While I may not have appreciated the parting, I can say earnestly that I do not regret the relationships we had. With Shakespeare, I would argue that it is “better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.”

Still, there is another aspect of friendship with which I find myself even more perplexed – that not all “ill weather” friends are truly friends. Those who are with us in times of grief or pain aren’t always available when the sun is shining. Indeed, if I were to be hospitalized this afternoon (my laptop having exploded from overuse), I could immediately count on the care and concern of at least a hundred individuals. (Perhaps more, but I’d hate to overstate my case.) Each would be there with visits, phone calls, and offers of assistance.

What I can’t count on is that any of these individuals would be there when there was no dire need. Grief makes expressions of friendship a necessity. Joy does not. Indeed, I have found very few who make time for relationship when no pressing need exists. Too few seem willing to sit with me in the sunshine simply for the sake of enjoying its warmth. The result is that I have amended my youthful claim that, “a true friend is someone who is there for you when things get rough” with the words “and has time for you when they aren’t.”

Friendship, it seems, is a tricky business. Even the best of my friends won’t be here forever. But the recollection of the time we spent together, enjoying life for its own sake always will be. The warm memories will never fade.



A Tribute to Herb June 26, 2014

Filed under: Reflections — acgheen @ 12:00 am
Tags: ,

I’m sitting in an office today. It’s not really mine. It’s a loaner that a couple of friends arranged. An escape from the tiny space I work in at home. It’s quieter here. No one banging dishes in the kitchen. No dog barking at the squirrels. No sound of traffic in the street. Just me and four walls. A place to focus, to think, and to remember.

I’ve left the door open into the hallway and can hear people come and go, all silently as though they were in a library. And, outside, visible through my one large window, is a sky that looks as gray and dreary as I feel. I’ve just lost a friend. No… someone who is much more than that.

Throughout our lives, people come and go. Some leave a mark and others don’t. Very rarely do any of those relationships last for long. But this one has lasted twenty-five years. My heart is not sure how to handle its loss. So much of who I am, I owe to Herb.

We met when I was five years old. He was the pastor of the church my family attended. I remember thinking he looked a bit like a giant teddy bear… even with an electric guitar in his hands. His wife, Jeanette, would give me gummy worms after church each week if I could recite a Bible verse for her. It wasn’t long before I felt that we were friends.

Mentor. Guide. Fellow conspirator. We’ve had some great adventures together. Like the time when he decided to take my on the light rail from Sandy, UT into Salt Lake City. All he had in his pocket that day was a collection of large bills. I watched as he slipped one into the ticket machine and out came the change… in change. Over $20 in $1 gold coins. The look on his face was priceless.

Then there was the night we stayed up past midnight. We’d watched a basketball game together. Or, more precisely, he had watched the game while I wrote in my journal. After the game, we sat and talked for hours. Our discussion wandered from theology and I recall sitting on the couch while he read me lines of poetry from a battered volume off his shelf.

I used to accompany him to the office on occasion. Till my dying day, I will believe that the best hours of my life were spent sitting in a pastor’s office, watching him work. Sitting there listening to the rhythm of church life.

I recall one particular afternoon when my presence attracted an abnormal amount of attention. He’d just accepted a call to serve a new congregation. I’d been in his office all day and one of the church ladies kept glancing at me as though she wasn’t sure why I was there. Finally he introduced me, “This is my daughter, Anna.” He waited long enough to get a good reaction before clarifying that I was his daughter “In the Pauline sense”. I will never forget the expression on the poor woman’s face!

He was a sort of sage full of both the spiritual and the highly practical. And I couldn’t help feeling that if someone really did follow Christ, they would look a lot like Herb. So I did the one thing that pastors don’t want members of their congregations to do: I imitated him. I said what he said. I did what he did. And today I’m sitting here drinking Dr. Pepper… because that’s what he drank.

We didn’t always agree. I didn’t always take his advice (though sometimes I wished I had). But I know that, at my core, much of who I am today is attributable to him and the example he set. So I’ll raise my Styrofoam cup: to the best Christian I’ve ever known. To Herb. I’ll see you on the Other Side.



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