There are friends who are our foundation, and those who are our touchstone. Foundation Friends are those who are so much a part of your everyday life that if you went more than a day or two without seeing them you start to lose your bearings. Then there are Touchstone Friends–those who you might only see every few years, just long enough to catch up on old times and new events before moving on again until the next time.
I had a call from an old friend today. Actually, I worked for him for about twelve years. He hired me to work in his office when I had just started college. He taught me about family coming first, about taking time to enjoy life, and about dropping everything for a friend. He taught me to not take life too seriously. Many days, he would throw open the office door and serenade me as he made his grand entrance, because it always made me laugh. He made work fun.
When I remember those years, I always recall how his wife and kids were the center of his world. He never missed a school play or wrestling match. He hid their Christmas gifts at the office. I would open a file cabinet and find a stuffed animal tucked away until he had time to wrap it and sneak it home.
When he called me today, his voice was warm…but weary. I asked after his family, and his response nearly brought me to my knees. His wife’s cancer had returned, and it was terminal
I wanted to do something…anything. I told him as much. “Pray,” he said. So I did. I do.
Still, it gnaws at me.
He was my touchstone. We saw each other every few years for lunch. We caught up, reassuring ourselves that the other was doing well, and then we were swallowed up in our own separate lives again.
Before, when I thought of him and his family, I felt young. It was as if the clock that recorded the moments of our friendship stopped ticking when we are apart. In this timeless world, his hair has less gray…his children are still young…and his wife is healthy. I am still in college, eager and optimistic.
Only…the reality is that his hair is likely more silver than I remember, his children are making their way in the world, and my own children will be thinking of college all too soon. Suddenly, I feel old.
His wife is only ten years older than I am.
What if my timeline were to end in ten years? What would I want to do before those last moments ran out? What still needs to be said? What lessons do I need to instill in my children while I still can?
But, if truth be told, we never know how much time is allotted to us…so I better make mine count.