Scholar and professor, Leo Buscaglia a noted expert on relationships once said, "a single rose can be my garden, a single friend my world." As is usually the case with catch phrases and quotations from learned individuals, so much truth is being communicated in such few syllables. This week while spending our annual vacation with some dear friends I was reminded of these words while observing my oldest son, JD and his old buddy Andrew spend some rare time together, again, as friends.
Their friendship witnessed it's beginning on a youth soccer field back in West Virginia and continued in a church pre-school program. It was solidified with Little League baseball and grade-school basketball. But the real medallion of friendship developed, as many do, when the two young boys experienced tragedy. Tragedy in the form of the disease I have blogged about often, cancer. Midway through their fifth-grade year of school the diagnosis descended upon Andrew's family and filtered out to close friends, my son's friend was seriously ill and would have a long, yet hopeful road in front of him. Now my son, JD, was no stranger to the harsh meanness of the disease, he had just watched both of my parents, his grandparents, die of lung cancer over the past four years. Although, he was too young to fully understand and comprehend the complexities of the illness and the impending death that often accompanies it, he did understand that the bitch of a disease had robbed him of two of his favorite people, two people that poured adoration upon him and spoiled him with butterscotch pies, and toys and movies, etc. I have no earthly idea what he truly felt as we left Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia that rainy cold night after visiting his friend Andrew in the hospital. He had just witnessed his buddy, laying in a bed surrounded with the same type of equipment, tubes, bags and beepers that had kept his grandparents company during their stays in the hospital. There is a good chance that those memories and thoughts occupied his young mind as we drove out of the hospital parking lot and he maintained his position in the back seat of the car, backwards and peering out the back window as the lights of the hospital went out of sight, straining I am sure to see the building in which we had left his friend. Refusing to turn around and face forward, for miles. I am confident, he didn't want us to see his pain, his fear and his tears.
But, as God has his purposes and ways, Andrew was blessed with recovery and Andrew and JD were blessed with a friendship that would grow and deepen as the years would pass. JD once told me that he thought God had all of this in mind when he prepared him for helping Andrew through his cancer by watching his granma and granpa die.
The Roman playwrite Plautus said, "nothing but Heaven itself is better than a friend who is really a friend." I of course, have no way of knowing, what is truly in the hearts of JD and his friend Andrew. I don't know for sure whether their friendship fits the description from Plautus, don't know if it meets the varied criteria for true friendship or whether theirs is like many that most adults experience, a good relationship rather than a true friendship. It is not the intent of this piece to discredit the superficial friendships that most of us invest in, for the most part they sustain us and although they leave us sometimes feeling empty, they provide the warmth and connection that we need when our true friends are miles away. No, the purpose of this expose is to underscore true friendship, the kind that no matter what the circumstances, what the gains are or what the losses total, a friendship that stands by you. True friends are happy when you are happy, satisfied when you enjoy success and hurt when you hurt. Someone once said, "a true friend always stabs you in the front, and never in the back." A true friend does not fall all over you, but instead falls for you. I hope, and I believe it is true, that is the type of friendship JD and Andrew are developing. They have done a pretty good job of staying in touch after we moved during their sophomore year of high-school to the Lowcountry. They both are entering their junior years of college, Andrew at West Virginia University (my Alma Mater, Go Mountaineers) and JD at the University of South Carolina (where I send my money, Go Cocks) While they are both very busy, and weeks and months may pass between text messages or phone calls, there are always those limited times that fate or planning pulls them together, if not for days, at least hours and I can see through their non-verbal communication, that even though they are going in seperate directions, building lives that don't necessarily parallel one another, over the years, their lives will intersect and merge from time to time, sometimes for good times and sometimes, I am certain, for not so good times.
I am hopeful that they both develop "true friendship" for one another, you know the kind that I described above, that they will always be the type of friend to one another that, while they may spend more time and share more commonalities with others, they will always KNOW that they have somebody who will hold their hand, no matter what is on the other side of that hand. I once read a comment saying, "my true compass in life is not to have a true friend, but to be a true friend." As I reflect on my life and my many friends I somehow wonder, am I that "true friend" to somebody? Have I earned that designation through my words, actions, and examples? These are personal questions that thanks to JD and Andrew getting together for a few days this week at Hilton Head Island I have started to think about this, and now maybe I will start putting more effort into being a true friend, than looking for one.
I hope you enjoy the photos of Andrew and JD spending some time together this week and I hope know matter where you are that today you have a true friend in your life. Have a great day, From The Land of Palm Trees.