That is a reality in life.
Some friendships end because of time and distance. Some end because of a conflict. Some folks just drift away from one another until the friendships, organically, dissolves. Other friendships are ended by conscious decision, while others simply fade away and bosom buddies, when next they meet, are near strangers.
In my life, I have rarely had a friendship end. That is, until the last couple of years.
One person, important to me, ended our friendship because of simply too much history. We saw each other through deaths, rehab, relationships, murders, work crises, HIV, and sexual assaults.
Another friendship was the victim of post-pardum depression. That loss was bitter and unexpected and an unfortunate side affect of a beautiful pregnancy. This was another person with whom I had shared much, in fact, we met when we were 13, and our friendship remained vibrant for almost 17 years.
The third friendship I lost because I didn't have the space to let this person into some of my life difficulties, and that created a situation where this individual felt that I had slammed the door in his face when he tried to reach out to me. I heartily disagree with this assessment, yet, that is the reason I was given, so it is the reason I accept.
And this last, is one that I conceptually, and fundamentally don't understand.
I decided to check in with a man that I believed was my friend regarding the state of our friendship. This person happens to be the partner of the third friend that chose to end our friendship. This is man that I, quite literally, love and respect and is, I believe, a model for how one can live ones life with honesty and integrity. So, when he told me that he didn't think we were friends because “we don't see each other and we don't share anything...at least recently”, I took what he said at face value.
But I don't understand it.
For me, friendship is,plainly put, a state of being when one person cares deeply for another, their well being, and, if called, shows up in a number of ways to support and build community with another person. Sometimes showing up means physically being present. Sometimes it means being an ear on the other end of a phone call. Sometimes it means responding to an email. And sometimes it means showing up spiritually, carrying a desire and prayer for peace and joy in an other's life, even when distance keeps you from showing that love and respect in person.
There are people in my life, that are not just friends, but family, that I have not seen in years. My best friend, and older brother, Jerry Jones, is someone that I haven't seen, physically, since January 2005. Time and economics haven't been on our side in terms of seeing one another. But, whenever I have picked up the phone, he has answered. We share a love for one another. And, if that is present, then there is friendship.
Over the years, I have added friends to my community that I hold dear. Having left Minneapolis, physically, I still carry with me the friendships of so many. Many of those folks were with me at a barbecue last week. I listened to their stories, and, though I am not with them on a regular basis, if any of them called and had a need, I would do what I could from where I am to fill it. That is friendship.
My truth is that should any of the four individuals in my life that have stepped away from the friendship that we have had, have a need, I would be there to fill it if I could. I have seen too much anger, abandonment, frustration, hurt, and pain in the world. I know how those things can intercept, interrupt, and intervene in love freely given. I have, indeed, let all of those things limit or eliminate my ability to be present for those for whom I care. I respect the choice of anyone to define the limits of their relationship with another, up to and including severing that relationship. But, that does not mean that I have to cauterize my feelings or no longer appreciate the friendship we have had and the memories we made together, whether they were last week or a decade ago.
Friendship should never be ephemeral, easily given, or readily taken away. It is too valuable. And in a time of great spiritual recession, those things of lasting value are that much more precious.