A funny thing happened to me the other day. I met a new friend, Barbara. She and I, it turns out, have a lot in common, including having a spouse die of a heart attack.
This year I also lost a best friend, Barb. I was thinking of Barb the other day, and it felt so strange to have a new friend Barbara appear within months of Barb’s passing.
It’s not like replacement parts. The washing machine bearing goes out, you get the repairman to put in a replacement. A light bulb burns out, you put in a new one. You run out of eggs, you go out and buy a dozen more.
No, when a best friend dies, there’s no replacing him or her. They are gone forever, even though they live forever in our hearts and minds. The beauty of old friends is that they are part of the patchwork of our lives. They come back as a mosaic of memories.They are bright lights in a fading past.
My new friend feels like the future. She has a past I am not a part of, nor is she part of mine. We can share stories–we sympathize, empathize–but we are outside the picture looking in.
New friends, like the future, are unpredictable. There is uncertainty in making new friends. Will this be a best friend or a casual acquaintance? How will we fit into each other’s lives? Is this a passing fancy? And just like reading a book, each chapter unfolds at its own pace. The future unfolds slowly. Unlike a book, you can’t skip to the end to find out what happens.
But like an author has control over the characters in a book, so too do we have control over parts of our friendships. We can decide how much time to devote to a new friend. We can reach out—or not. And while we can’t control our new friend’s response, we can act on what we do have control over.
Which brings us back to losing a best friend forever. We can’t control the loss—gone is gone forever.But we can control our reaction to the loss. We can remember the good times and the bad, the funny and the sad, in positive, life affirming ways. We can appreciate the sadness that comes with death, but relish in the joy, happiness and laughter that was shared. We can cry tears of joy and pain, all at the same time.
Because that’s life.