Last night I spent some time with an old friend. I haven’t spent any real one-on-one time with him in nearly 10 years. When I moved back to the area five years ago, I saw him in passing a couple of times. When I moved to his city two years ago, I put off calling him. I was busy. I had settling in to do, a long commute, and a long list of chores. I was newly married and wanted to focus on becoming the best Mrs. I could be.
Finally, last October, I got around to sending him a little note. I miss you, let’s get together, sorry that it took me so long to get in touch. His reply came back, and it stunned me: I am fighting cancer. I should have been dead months ago. Do me a favor: Enjoy every day.
I sent back a heartfelt message and I couldn’t get a good read on where he was emotionally. Did he want to spend time with me? I wondered if it was worth it to him to reconnect if he was, as he put it, “done working.” I really wanted to connect, but I left it at a few messages and we never made plans.
I saw him on the street last month, and he seemed very happy to see me. We had a quick chat and continued on our separate ways. After that, it dawned on me that I missed talking to him more than I had realized – missed his smile and his laugh, his sweet spirit, and his sense of humor. Missed how easy it was to talk to him, about everything. This was a friend who, years ago, had let me hang out with him for what seemed like no good reason, who took walks and drives with me, cooked me dinner and just was there when I didn’t really have many real friends. This was a friend who had long instant message chats with me when I went away to school. The friend who invited me to his wedding and practically commanded me not to bring a gift – just the fact that I was driving 32 hours in one weekend to be there meant a lot to him.
Still, I put off getting in touch with him. Weeks passed. And then, I got the news that my friend’s brother died from gastric cancer. June 18 and 19, I went to Bob Dedrick’s calling hours and memorial service. And hearing about Bob’s life from his friends and colleagues put everything in perspective – what it means to be a friend, what it means to live life and make the most of what you have.
June 20, I texted my old friend. Last night, June 26, we took a walk. We brought each other up to speed on what was new and a little bit of what was not so new. He told me his cancer story. How awful his pain was, how sick the treatments made him, how difficult the physical therapy was. I felt guilty for not connecting with him sooner – I could have been there for him when he was going through his treatment, I could have done more. But those kinds of thoughts aren’t productive.
The past is the past for a reason. What matters is that we are connected again, now. What matters is that I still have some time with my sweet friend, and that we can take walks and talk about life the way we did all those years ago. The past is past, and the future is still waiting to be made. Life goes on, we are both living today, and my hope is that I can enjoy each walk we get to take, knowing that it’s a blessing to have my friend walking next to me.