The Value of Friends

If you live long enough, at some point in life, you’ll discover that someone you were once close to has died without you knowing. That happened to me recently after I reconnected with a childhood friend only to learn that her sister, who I was also close to, died several years ago. I don’t know why this dwells in my mind the way it does. Maybe I feel like I need to make up for my years of blissful ignorance. I know I feel regret for letting my friendship with these women lapse for so long.

These women, my friend and two of her sisters, gave a lonely child a sense of family that I would otherwise have lacked. I have one sibling, a sister 4 ½ years older, who I’ve never gotten along with and parents who were old enough to be my grandparents. We lived in the country, nine miles from town. I was the new kid in second grade. Shy. Totally friendless (and clueless). Her family lived near us. Their kids went to the same church, rode the same school bus, got off at the same stop. My new friend was the fourth of nine children, the third of three girls in a row. She was as shy as I was, but she was never lonely the way I was.

The time I spent with her family is largely a blur in my memory. A happy blur of us laughing and playing, but a few memories stand out like the way they patiently taught me how to ride a bike. And a sleep-out in the back of a farm truck. An afternoon spent playing in the bed of my dad’s beet truck. Riding double on the horse my dad bought when I was ten. Learning how to drive a tractor. Riding in a VW bug with the first one of us to get her driver’s license (before she had her license.) The few times in my childhood when I got to go trick-or-treating. Scaring ourselves silly making up haunted house stories about the empty house up the road.

It was a great childhood.

And I owe them so much for sharing it with me.

I have no excuse for letting the friendships lapse except the standard one shared by everyone who grew up before social platforms like Facebook. Life got busy. Physical distance (my family moved away when I was 13). Life took us to different places. Understandable excuses that don’t cancel the remorse.

The world is so connected now with the internet, and the young today are so lucky to have it. Social platforms encourage you to share the minutia of your life, all the things that are too trivial for a phone call, a letter, or even an email get posted there, but that keep people connected. Even something as simple as “liking” someone else’s facebook post builds the sense of connection. I wish it had all happened sooner. I would have liked to have stayed connected to my childhood and the people who experienced it with me.

One of my dominant writing themes is about families and how they shape you, and I owe these friends of my childhood a great deal on that front.

Thank you to all my friends and, to those who are gone, I miss you. When you get Facebook in heaven, please friend me.


  1. I’m sorry, Suz. That really sucks that your friend died. (I’m so eloquent with words.) I’ve lost touch (no more phone calls) with several high school friends, but you’re right, I do still know what’s going on in their lives through Facebook even if we don’t talk any longer. It is a huge blessing, one I won’t take for granted after reading your post. Beautifully written, too.

  2. I've actually done pretty well at keeping some of my oldest friends. There are several that are about to move from the "I've known them 30 some years" categor to the 40-some years category. Kinda scary when you're talking about those kind of numbers.

  3. I've lost track with a number of friends I've known in childhood. I have no idea what directions they went in.