Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mortality



We all go through life interacting with people. We have family, we have acquaintances, we have professional relationships, and we have friends. I've been blessed in my life to have a lot of friends and even more acquaintances. I suspect that many of the people I consider to be acquaintances consider me to be a friend.


I don't mean to sound ungrateful or snobbish, but the term "friend" is pretty sacred to me. I've had things happen to me throughout my life that lead me to value a "friend" at an exclusive level. Richard Bach in his book "Illusions" noted that ""Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years." I can count my true friends on my two hands yet I bet I have a thousand acquaintances.


My wife and I have a standing bet that I owe her $15.00 every time I know someone when we are out of town. I should clarify: "Out of State." She says I know everyone. And sometimes I feel as if I do. But not many people know me. This core group of friends know me, and despite the years and the miles -- and sometimes great spans between communication -- that bond of true friendship sustains me.



It is also something I take for granted, so today, when I learned that a dear friend whom I met in college and had the privilege to work with professionally on many occasions was disclosed to have a degenerative brain disease. As his awesome wife wrote of her husband who was diagnosed with "FrontoTemporal Dementia (FTD)" in December, FTD is “a brain disorder that is characterized by behavior, language and/or motor symptoms and an inevitable, deterioration in a person’s ability to function.” While, there is some hope that “perhaps the progression of the disease can be delayed,” it is “incurable.” What do you say? She went on to write "How can this happen to our Matt? He is so young – he just turned 50 – and so smart, and so athletic and so fit! It is even harder for Matt to accept and understand what is happening to him."



I'm having trouble accepting it. I have so many awesome memories of this amazing man including parties, his wedding, his daughters' births, Trivial Pursuit marathons, BSU games in the snow, professional meetings where he was like a laser beam of insight and talent and intellect, discussion books and politics and issues, the two of us sitting in a dive bar in Georgetown where a bum slammed a shot of whiskey and yelled "God Bless Frank Church!" He has a great laugh, movie star looks, an amazing family, an intellect that is frightening, and a future that should be limitless. Too many to think about. Too much emotion. Too much to lose.



If I am hurting today, I cannot fathom his wife and three teenage daughters. I have been blessed to have him as a friend, and I ache that he is in Washington DC while I am here. What to do? What to say? Richard Bach also wrote ""Can miles truly separate you from friends... If you want to be with someone you love, aren't you already there?" I wish I was. I never dreamed that it would be more than miles that would ultimately separate me from a friend. Dammit.