Recently, the wistful tune and lyrics of Paul Simon’s “Old Friends” replayed themselves in my head, and brought me to where they always take me: Considering the old friends with whom I’ve shared a “park bench, like bookends…..” Wistful nostalgia seasoned with deep gratitude and dusted with joy. As happens every time I recall this tune, I found myself in a long-lasting reverie about all the friends who have shaped my life to this point. And so I decided to share a few appreciative words with subscribers and other readers who are part of that wonderful collection of dear ones.
So you know, I have probably not forgotten you. Perhaps we’ve lost track of each other, so it might seem like the connection is gone. But it’s not. Any time I look at a map of this country, specific locations pop out at me—the places where you live or lived. And that starts a cascade of memories about you. (An aside: By this time in my life, those memories have been washed clean of any negative or sorrowful elements, so what remains are only the most positive and noteworthy recollections.) Then there are the people who remind me of you—as simple as your hair style, your gait or the lilt in your voice. These similarities prompt a flurry of memories about your presence back when.
When those time and place connections are re-established and the reminiscing begins, the prayers quickly follow. First there is thanks. You might have not known how your life helped shape mine, but that fact remains: Without you, I might have headed in a different direction, missed adding an important character trait to my personality or remained ignorant without the wealth of your knowledge and expertise.
Perhaps more importantly, I remember how we validated each other, sometimes in mutual weirdness or outlier-ness. (Yes, to any who read this blog: My friends have consistently been unique individuals, some bordering on eccentric!) That aspect of our friendship has remained all these years, and has encouraged me in so many ways—always to be observant and to see beyond the ordinary.
Chris and I have moved around so many times that these seemingly lost connections have multiplied over the years. Our annual Christmas card list illustrates this. But gladly, at this time in life—with more than enough time to sit quietly and review how God has blessed us along the way—I am more inclined to think highly of each of you. I am more able to expand the tiniest fragment of a memory into a longer reflection about you. I am more satisfied to put together the experiences we shared into a completed puzzle that makes sense now.
I don’t know how or if we’ll have chances to re-establish those connections in person, but they’re still there in my mind. Fondly so.
So, to those of you who consider me friend—from as long ago as Lutheran High School in Los Angeles, or Concordia Teachers College, Seward, the several congregations we’ve been part of, or any of the many occasions in the LCA and ELCA where our paths first crossed—this assurance: Until memory fails me completely, you remain a cherished part of my spirit.
Thanks be to God!