I wanted to begin the first sentence of this article with the word “my friend died last week” but consciously lying to you and myself doesn’t work so well and if I called Dave my friend it would be a lie. Before his memorial service I would have for certain called him a friend. I would have told you how kind he’d always been to me and everyone I ever saw him interact with and how he would always pick up my call when I had a question and was looking for advise. I’d have told you about how much I loved his hearing problem because whenever we interacted he paid such close attention to me that I felt like I was all that existed. It was one of the most memorable things about him for me, the way he made me feel so heard. I’d have told you about some about his business and his family and about his boys and what they are up to. I could have even told you about his love of trains.
But I know now for sure, we were not friends. I showed up at his memorial late, stuck in traffic and busy with my own life. I didn’t even realize I would be late.. I had pictured a funeral home and a casket and white pegboards on easels with old family photo’s gracing each side and a memorial book in the back of the room. I figured 20 minutes in and out.
I assumed another event was happening at the church when I was re-directed to an auxiliary parking lot by guys in florescent vests and waiving flags.. Orange cones blocking various entrances. I walked in to a set of doors and found TV monitors broadcasting someone on a stage I couldn’t see and people sitting on chairs and on the floors in random hallways. I turned around to find a different entrance— clearly I had walked into a meeting of some kind and the memorial was in another wing–the basement? Another entrance lead me back to where I started, watching monitors of a stage in a filled auditorium that had no more room for me or the others.
For the next hour it became so clear that Dave was not my friend. We liked each other, sure. We were friendly, absolutely. We were colleagues and occasional co-horts. But not friends. As Dave’s real friends and family took to the stage to pay tribute and to evangelize what his life stood for and the grace he represented, I saw what real friendship was.
I didn’t know this man almost at all. I listened to these stories of deep kindness and big love and a devotional life focused on what really mattered to him and I felt further and further removed but somehow more clear and filled up.
I talked to my friend Pete days later and he articulated exactly what I was feeling “Man, I feel like I didn’t know him at all”. I talked with my friend Toni and she said, “I feel like I haven’t slowed down to take the time to really know people”. I talked to my friend Deb who, like Pete, said “Witnessing this day really changed me, my life won’t be the same after this” and I know neither of them say things like that lightly.
I was in business with Dave and am in business with a handful of the people there. We all spend virtually every Monday morning together and we travel some together, break bread together and support each other here and there regularly. We even know things about each other we don’t openly share with other people but it’s almost entirely limited to our business lives. Dave was squarely in this group— but he clearly added so much more. He forged deep relationships through a life of service to others. He consciously defined noble friendship and what it’s like to practice grace and an unconditional acceptance of his fellows. The celebration of his life made it clear that’s how real friendship is forged.
As I think about how to show up to more like Dave, I think about the group of folks I spend these Monday mornings with and the benefits in my life for knowing these people- they model for me what to do and not to do in my business and perhaps I do the same. But how much of that will really matter someday? Did I know who their kids are? What makes them really smile? What matters to them deep in their bones? Do I know the good they do and how am I supporting it?
Some would say it doesn’t matter, that we have different people for different areas or chapters of our lives, maybe some say some things don’t need to merge, it’s ok to have our lives segmented. I might have agreed until I saw the results of Dave’s undivided life.
I want to know what the result would be if I reached beyond the surface with everyone I encountered.
If I knew your dreams, I might be able to remind you when things really suck why you should keep going. If I knew your kids names I likely wouldn’t have to prove to you that I am really listening. If I could make you smile, I likely could say a whole lot less and together we could accomplish a whole lot more. I want to make you feel joy.
Each day I wake up and vow to live the most holy life I can. I’m trying to put to the side everything that doesn’t serve that purpose. Because of Dave, I know how to do that a little more now. I’m grateful.
I know for sure, we have a finite existance, a set number of days.
I’m no longer going to just click people a like, I’m going to find every way I can to give them real noble friendship.
After Dave, of course life resumes. Lucky for me, Differently.
Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. ~ Upaddha Sutta
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” ~ C. S. Lewis
John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this…”
Friendship is the only cure for hatred, the only guarantee of peace.~ Buddha