Thursday, 5 August 2010

On Friendship

This photo of my friend S.J.
was taken six weeks ago, on the occasion of a
birthday party she arranged for me.

Making friends is not something that comes to me easily. In fact, you could say that I rarely, if ever, initiate the process and that I become ‘friends’ with somebody almost in spite of myself.

This is not something new or recent. I have no fond memories of friends of old, I barely remember the names of two or three school or college friends, every job I’ve ever had I have left more or less without a backward glance of regret at losing colleagues who might have become friends. I have certainly never felt obliged to keep in touch with a holiday acquaintance, no matter how much fun we might have had while thrown together by chance.

Poets wax lyrical about true and faithful friendships, friendships for life, in good times and bad; friends who support each other through thick and thin. Cynics use expressions like ‘fair weather friends’. Ambrose Bierce defines friendship as “a ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul”.

I have observed friendships between others, I have seen friends fall out over trivialities, I have watched them rip each other apart and get back together again afterwards as if nothing had happened. Woe betide the innocent bystander chosen to supply a sympathetic ear, if she gives an opinion that amounts to more than a mild “oh dear”, she will find herself in the black books of both friends once they have made up. I have seen close friends ask each other to be totally candid; “tell me honestly, what do you think?”,  they say – and not just ‘does my bum look big in this?’ -  and watched the fall-out, standing well clear myself.

Close friends tell each other ‘everything’ over the years, they confide in each other, revealing their innermost secrets; their power to wound is therefore almost unlimited.

How wonderful it is that there are those who never use this power, friends who are true to each other and remain friends to the end. I know of one old lady in her eighties who still meets up with friends from junior school. “There were four of us”, she tells me, “ one has gone now, but the rest of us visit each other and we still have lots to talk about”. She has actually admitted to knowing everything there is to know about them.

Personally, I would very much dislike knowing ‘everything’ about somebody else, or have somebody else know ‘everything’ about me.

In spite of all my misgivings expressed here, I do have friends. There is one in particular, whom I have known for just over twelve years, one whose heart was big enough to welcome me and all my crankiness without reservation. We have almost nothing in common, but each recognized in the other a quality worth exploring, a kindred spirit, a straightforward, realistic world view, a willingness to help those in need and a common love of the observation of others’ foibles.

Dearest S.J., I have never heard you say an unkind word about anyone, have never heard you complain about any of the obstacles life put in your way. You kept your spirits up in the face of deep unhappiness. “Got to make an effort”, you said during the hardest times. Even now, in your darkest hour, your indomitable spirit is a beacon to us whom you are leaving behind.

Thank you for accepting me as your friend.


  1. What a beautiful post, Friko, for the friend you will be losing.

  2. You touch me with your words and illuminate some of my own dark places. Would that I could lighten your heart today as you think of your friend.

  3. Thoughtful perspectives about friendship. My #1 friend I meet at a squash court twice a week where we battle it out. Interesting that while many of us do not necessarily need to talk to someone about everything in our life, we do like to keep a blog where others may read about our introspection.

  4. This is such a touching post. There are friendships in our lives that change us forever...for the better. Thank you for sharing your friendship with us. :-)

  5. Surely a joy to be read at half past two in the morning. Thank you for this lesson of life. Please have you all a great Friday.

  6. Can hear some very important things in your writings Friko. Honesty above all. I am so sorry for your loss. My best friend is so totally different from me it is amazing. What we loved about that was the differences and have only to get together and it is like we have never been apart. She still works and I don't so, time is precious. Thanks for such honesty.

  7. Perhaps the choices you have made to not get too involved with friends makes you appreciate this friendship all the more - and despair over its imminent loss. The intimacy you have enjoyed with her will nourish you both right to the end.

    What a tender, heartfelt post Friko.

  8. Friko, I feel for you, I also lost a close friend a few years ago, at the age of 58, to this day I think of her everyday, I am fortunate, I have a few more close friends,(being an only child, you become outgoing) and rely on friends to replace your siblings, I guess. I love your writings..:)

  9. Oh, such great loss. Friko, I'm so sorry.

  10. I'm sorry to read that you're losing your friend, Friko. There really are no words. If I were close by I'd get you out for a walk - from far away I'll just walk in sympathy.

  11. I do love your straight forwardness Friko. What an open and touching post. My thoughts are with you.

  12. Friendship, well observed and well expressed. My friends, I can count on one hand. Our relationships are unconditional and deep. My acquaintances are too many to number. We interact at a totally different level.

    I'm thankful for both, having recognised their true, respective values.

  13. A beautiful post Friko and a wonderful tribute to your friend; friendship is a two way thing so she too is so fortunate to have you as a friend. Take care of yourself so you will be able to give your friend the help she needs over the next while.
    Thank you for this post on friendship.

  14. S.J. sounds like a rather exceptional person. How fortunate you both are to have found yourselves in the same time and place, and to have been drawn to each other. My thoughts are with you a lot these days, Friko.

  15. I also am the one who does not make friends easily although I usually welcome other's attempts to befriend me. Having written that, it is not the number of friends, of course, but the quality of the people you befriend and who befriend you that is important.

  16. A person's "ways" have much more to do with their friend-ability than do their other qualities. In some people we find a vein of solid gold that matches ours and a bond forms.
    I am glad you have S.J.
    And you will have her in your heart in the future, too.

  17. I, like you, have only a few friends, and no family left. But we are lucky for those few people we do have.

    For whatever unknown reasons, bonds form and true friendships find a way through our exteriors to touch us so deeply that it lasts a lifetime. With these people, it does not seem to matter if the time is a few months, a few years, or a lifetime, the memories and love will last forever. Their impact stays with us through all of our days.

  18. Your post is very moving. I had close friends when growing up in France but do not have any close friends anymore. I had one here but he passed away many years ago. I can appreciate how sad it is to lose a friend who you have known for over a decade. I am sorry.

  19. More than a Post of the Week,

    this is a post of life.

    Should be an essay in a lit magazine.

    I resonated with your wise words...and think of YOU as a true friend, Friko.

    All da best...

    Aloha from Honolulu :)

    Comfort Spiral

  20. The way some bloggers go on about their friends you'd think they were making toffee.
    Your post is a welcome antidote and a realistically moving tribute to your friend.

  21. was kann man anders als sprachlos sein über ein derart freies, ehrliches und schönes Schreiben..!
    Bis sehr bald!

  22. Friko - thank you so much for putting that post up during what must be such a difficult time for you. A lovely photo of a truly beautiful lady. Our thoughts are all with you both at this time of such deep sadness.

  23. Thinking of you and your friend, Friko, for friendship is a two-way thing..... and losing is so hard.

  24. Hi Friko,
    I am sorry for your imminent loss. It's awful, and you will miss her, and I wish I had something of comfort to say. I guess a lot of your readers can empathize, and that may help.
    Be kind to yourself in the days ahead, ok?

  25. Once more I must thank you all for your friendship and kind words.
    Knowing that there are people in the world who care enough to send their good wishes and compassion to a virtual stranger helps enormously.

    S.J. is still alive, receiving palliative care. I will not see her again, her last days on this earth must be reserved for her family.

  26. The very essence of a true friend ...... both of you .


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