The legacy of friendship


As I age, I have come to realize that my parents taught me many life lessons, but in our house there wasn’t a lot of verbal instruction. They taught by example, and I learned without even realizing it.

One of those lessons was how to make friends, how to be a friend, and just how important those friendships are throughout life, none of which come with specific instructions. Rather, if we’re blessed, it’s something we learn by doing and watching and just living.

Naturally, there were things my parents did specifically tell me about life. Most of what I remember had to do with manners, instructions like: “Don’t chew with your mouth full.” “Stand up straight.” “No elbows on the table.” “Don’t run in the house.” (That’s why I got no sympathy when I ran through the dining room and broke my little toe when it hit the buffet leg). “Make two trips.” (That one was when I thought it necessary to try to carry too much from the car to the house or upstairs to my room at one time and made a mess.)

Whether it was the friends my parents square danced with or the neighbors on the next farm or the friendship that was strengthened over many card games or over cups of coffee at the kitchen table, or maybe friends from church, those connections were just always there as I grew up. And it wasn’t just that they were my parents’ friends. They were family friends, with kids to play with when we visited at our home or theirs for an evening. I am blessed because those moms came to treat me like their own. And even now they continue to hold a special place in my heart, and so do the daughters who are still some of my closest friends.

One of those moms, now 85 years old, passed away last week. The last time she knew me when I visited was this summer. She smiled and recognized me first thing.

As I spent time with her and her husband that day, I felt at home, connected somehow to my parents and to the memories of those times our families spent together while I was growing up. I doubt that I realized it then, but that’s when I started to understand the true value of friendships.

Something else I didn’t know then is that the experts tell us that friends have a long-term impact on our health and longevity. Including healthy-minded, supportive people might be the most powerful thing one can do to add years to their life.

I just hope that having friends and being a friend is a legacy I am able to pass along to my children.