The dictionary defines friendship as “(1) mutual regard cherished by kindred minds, or (2) the state or fact of being friends.”
It also mentions that friendship is a deep, quiet, enduring affection, founded upon mutual respect and esteem. I would add a good dose of love in there, too.
Friendship takes on many forms that can’t be categorized or qualified.
Recently, I traveled to my home town of Buffalo, N.Y., for the wedding of the daughter of my childhood friend Joyce Brown. Joyce is a nurse and was born to care for people. She knew nursing would be her career path since we played with Barbie dolls many years ago.
Joyce has been a true friend in my life. She was a comforting force through the loss of both of my parents and the loss of my two siblings. She was also a bridesmaid in my wedding almost 25 years ago.
We share a history of love and support. Joyce lost her dad at age 5. Her mother, Lula Graham, was a strong single mother of two daughters. I’ve always admired Joyce and her mom (who, coincidentally, grew up in Huntersville and Charlotte).
The wedding of Joyce and Ray Brown’s daughter Courtney was absolutely beautiful. It was a refreshing example of young love planting roots for a long future together.
The bride and groom are both educators. The elegant reception reflected their career choice with unique decorations.
The day after the wedding I visited Mrs. Graham in her beautiful assisted living center in Williamsville, N.Y. During our 2 1/2-hour visit, we shared lunch and a few hours of reflections on life, love, friendship and countless other topics.
Any time I have a chance to learn secrets of aging well from senior adults, I embrace the opportunity.
At 91, Mrs. Graham is a Christian woman who is sharp, outspoken and introspective. When asked about secrets of aging well, she is quick to credit “God’s grace and mercy.”
Mrs. Graham also stressed the importance of “letting go of stuff.” She said, “The more stuff you hold onto … the more you carry inside.” She believes that is one key to longevity. “I just let things go, and I always treat people the way I want to be treated.”
A few days before the wedding, another dear friend (who was also in my wedding) died unexpectedly. Her name was Saundra Smokes. She was a beautiful and giving spirit who voluntarily raised two great-nieces and two great-nephews as a single mom.
Before taking on that responsibility, she also took care of her ailing mother until her mother died. While doing all of that, Sandy became an award-winning columnist, community activist and dedicated church member.
She was born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y. Recently, Sandy created a radio show called “Saundra Smokes Speaks on Venus.” It aired there on WPHR, “Power AM 620.”
On July 21, Sandy invited me to be a guest on her show to discuss my views about gun ownership and gun control.
I opened the show by thanking Sandy for the opportunity and telling listeners that Sandy represented everything beautiful in life, and that we had been friends for more than 35 years.
A few days later, Sandy called to thank me for the interview, and we laughed and talked awhile. She told me she was glad I didn’t end the interview by saying “I love you,” which is how we usually end our phone calls. I told her that I understood the setting was not appropriate for that, and we laughed some more.
About a week later she called to tell me about a recent interview she had with Bill Cosby, which aired July 28. We had to rush off the call because someone came to her door. We ended our call the usual way: We both said, “I love you.”
That call was a gift. I didn’t know it would be our last conversation. She died five days later.
So, on Aug. 11, I attended the 11 a.m. funeral in Syracuse and made it to the 3 p.m. wedding in Buffalo. It was an indescribable roller coaster of emotions. It was surreal.
Friendship is a beautiful gift, in all of its various forms. When we lose those we love, the love lives forever.
The lessons I take from that experience are these:
Love your family and friends as much as you can while you can. Let them know in all kinds of ways.
Don’t hold onto to “stuff” that brings you down. And treat everybody the way you want to be treated.
One other tip from Mrs. Graham is, “Do what you know is right.”