This morning I went to a Memorial service for one of my close friend’s wife who had battled cancer for over 5 years. Fortunately his daughter had contacted my daughter, Debi, in Chicago to tell her about the service today. I had no idea that she had died, but was able to go to the service and support my friend and family in the loss of their mother, wife, and friend. What becomes acutely clear from what I just said is that I was not connected with this family for a long while. Let me take you back.
Stephen and I had met at a local church 25+ years ago and connected immediately. As we talked, we came up with the idea to start a Friday morning mens group to build friendships as well as add an element of spiritual influence. We started with 5-6 men meeting every week during the school year and then taking the summer off. We celebrated birthdays and holidays together with our wives and children as they came along. One year we decided to go downhill skiing together and liked it so much that most of us bought skis for the next season. The longer we met, the more connection took place. Men would come and go over the years, but it was a place where true friendships were forged. Every year at Christmas time our families celebrated with a dinner and the all important white elephant gift giving experience. If you don’t know about the white elephant experience, it is a time to pull out your ugliest sweater, old golf balls, salad dishes made in the shape of a leaf, your unwanted stuff you never use, wrap it up in a gift bag with a beautiful bow, and give it to your friends who also have unwanted junk to give away.
But 13 years ago, things changed. My family decided to change churches and we lost touch. I no longer attended the mens group as I had in the past and we drifted apart. I hadn’t seen Stephen for 13 years until today. What a sad commentary on lost years of connection. 13 YEARS. There was no connection as his kids graduated from high school and college. There was no connection when his three girls got married. There was no connection when he had his first grand child and then a next and a next. There was no connection when his wife Martha got cancer and battled with it for 5 years before she died a few days ago. 13 LOST YEARS.
Today was a new connection with a close friend that I had lost touch with. After the service, a reception followed with all the foods that his wife love to make for the family. As I went up to Stephen, he saw me and we embraced for a long time. He had lost his wife, but I had lost my close friend (for 13 years). There was one thing he said that blew me away. “I consider you my best friend.” Do you hear that statement. I wasn’t there for him when he was dealing with terminal cancer. I wasn’t there for him when he contemplated the death of his wife. I at that moment didn’t feel like a best friend.
But today, I had a second chance. I asked him if he would like to get together and he jumped at the idea. I got his cell phone and am intending to meet with him this coming week after his three daughters and families leave. I have a second chance to reconnect and value the relationship that I let slip from my grasp. I am going to be intentional in coming along side him as I have experienced what he is beginning to go thru, a loss of a spouse.
On this journey, we sometimes let precious relationships slip away for lack of effort and sometimes we never get a second chance to reconnect. Today is the time to reevaluate our relationships and make sure that we become intentional in cultivating the most precious gift on earth, relationships.