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  • Jane Leder

Mending (Or Not) Close Friendships Before It's Too Late

The daughter of a dear friend was in town visiting from New York. She made the wise choice to drive, though it was a struggle around the eight-hour mark on Day One. Still, she made it unscathed and was delighted to see her parents and friends for the first time since last Thanksgiving.

Yesterday, she, her mother, and my husband spent several hours outside on our patio, taking advantage of a beautiful October afternoon. When my husband went for a run (seven miles this time around!) and my friend went home to walk the dog, her daughter and I had a chance to talk one-on-one. And that's when she asked me about the death of a close friend whom I will call S.

I told her that he'd died from cancer in the summer of 2019 and that while we weren't invited to the funeral we did attend a memorial service several months later. Truth was that we hadn't seen him for a long time. We didn't even know he was ill. We read about it in a newspaper article emailed to us by a friend.

Our friend, my husband, and I had been tight as thieves for years until an anti-Semitic comment made by his new girlfriend who just months before his death became his wife drove a wedge in our friendship that was never repaired. I called S. for lunch several times, but I must have been afraid to broach the subject or maybe I did but don't remember. My husband and S. bumped into each other at film festivals and other events but never got together as they both professed they wanted to do. I suggested to my husband that he might make the first move, particularly because he hadn't done so with another friends and never forgave himself.

I emailed S. when I heard he was seriously ill:

"Just a quick note to see if you are slowly regaining your strength.  I can only imagine how tough this patch has been.  We are rooting for you and sending healing thoughts."

I can't find the next email I sent or S.'s reply. But I know I wrote that I could not presume to understand what he was experiencing but that I wanted him to know how much he meant to me over the years and how his support of my writing had kept me moving forward at times when I wanted to give up. Could we drop by for ten minutes?

He replied immediately. Could we wait until his voice was stronger and then, yes, he'd be delighted to see us. We never got the chance. He died two weeks later.

For me, the life lesson was clear: don't let hurt or misunderstanding go untended. Speak up. Clear the air. Cherish those special connections that are fewer and fewer as we age. We never know what life has in store. Things change in a bat of an eye. Fate has a way of wedging itself into our lives and throwing everything up for grabs.

I saw S.'s wife at the memorial service at the beginning of 2020. I ran to her with arms wide open with my husband on my heels. We embraced and cried big, heartfelt tears. When another mourner approached us, S.'s wife turned to him and said, "These are my husband's best friends."

I'm crying now.


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