I had the brutal sorrow of traveling this past weekend to the funeral of a college friend, who was also married to a college friend. At the same time, I had the extraordinary fortune of seeing many other friends there, some of whom I have not connected with in almost 20 years, and finding those friendships still fresh, alive, and fulfilling.
I drove 4 hours to the funeral dismayed, somewhat numb, and broken at the thought of my friend and his children who had lost their Wife and Mom respectively. As I drove 4 hours back home, I still frequently found myself in tears but also felt a strange sense of being on a high and feeling rejuvenated.
The experience clarified ideas I have thought and written about for years: when we have a relationship with someone, it creates something new and unique in the world. My friendships are not mine alone, and they are not yours alone. They manifest a unique collective, a third party to us as individuals – an energy, a resource, a power that is fundamental to our individual wellbeing and the wellbeing of the world.
If it didn’t have a life of its own, how could it be possible for a friendship that has gone almost totally un-invested in for years to be so ready and familiar? If it didn’t persist in some way in-and-of itself, how could it still nurture me when I have long since stopped nurturing it? When we create true friends, we put a life force into the world that we can always come back to. We won’t always do it, but we can.
Friendship has a soul.
This weekend, this soul provided safety in familiarity and solace in connectedness at a vulnerable time, when many of us felt troubled and alone in our thoughts. It allowed us to find joy and laughter at a time that felt crushingly sad. It fed us with a feeling of wholeness as we wrestled with the fragility of our own lives, faced with the fear of losing our own partners, and navigating such loss with our own children.
This soul, however, didn’t just serve those of us there to mourn, still living. It continues to connect us with our friend who has passed. This soul of friendship is the same force that we will reflect on, talk to, lean on, and otherwise find sustenance in long after we are able to nurture it in this world. Long after a friend has passed, the soul of the friendship will connect us with the soul of a friend.
Today, I am still hurting deeply for my friend, but feel strengthened in recognizing this greater truth of friendship. I know that the soul of his friendships will be what will keep my friend afloat, connected, and comforted; just as it will the rest of us.