Since last Wednesday, I experienced the deaths of six persons in my circle of Calvary, previous parishes, and personal friendships. And some of you told me of others in your circles who died over the last few days. Two mantras I keep repeating have helped me through these days. One is, ‘be gentle with yourself.’ The other is ‘stay connected.’
The newspaper columnist from the days of print and ink that I miss most is Sydney J. Harris. He wrote: ‘One thing we learn, or should learn, as we grow older is to keep our friendships in repair; otherwise, they deteriorate with time and weather, just like a neglected fence. One of my biggest regrets is a friendship I failed to keep in repair, some years ago, for the usual insufficient reasons – lack of time, too many other concerns, travel, and family affairs. Then, when I finally got around to it, my friend had died while I was out of town and I learned about it only later. This was a bitter experience because he needed old friends in his last, struggling year, and I was not there to give even moral support.’
I can identify with this regret because one of those who died this past week was Sarah, my ‘big sister’ during years of volunteering with community theatre in south Mississippi. I saw her last fall for her mother’s funeral but did not stay in touch with her during this final year of her cancer journey. I spoke with a friend yesterday who talked about ‘living amends.’ By that he meant, we may not be able to make amends with those who have died, but we can honor them by making amends with others going forward. I am working to do that by seeking to stay more connected with those I love. And the first mantra, ‘be gentle with yourself’ is helping too.
Jesus pays his disciples, including us modern-day ones, the ultimate compliment when he says, ‘I no longer call you servants but friends.’ (John 15:15) Sydney Harris concluded his column this way: ‘No one really understands friendship, any more than we understand a romantic affinity. It is more, and different than a meeting of minds, a conjunction of interests, or a similarity of backgrounds, though it may include all these things. One of my dearest friends disagreed with me on almost everything in the world – the only thing we agreed upon was that we liked, enjoyed, and trusted each other. If you have this, you don’t need anything else; and if you don’t, nothing else matters.’ Dear friends, who do you need to connect with this week?