“People take relationships as a given part of life when they should count them as priceless blessings. Love you Dad. Hang in there.” – Braden
“Son, you were a rare treasure to us. We thought you were ours but all along God knew you belonged solely to Him. Missing you.“ – Mom, Dad, & Caitlin
The mind is an amazing creation and arguably one of God’s most miraculous. How could the least significant memories sometimes become locked there to reside for years or even a lifetime, only to be recalled at some critical moment. Maybe it’s God’s subtle way of lending us guidance or clarity in an otherwise completely lost and confusing world.
Especially in the past couple of years the most insignificant memories have helped to sustain me. These memories can arrive as a gentle drip and at other times as huge waves.
As kids, “Going to Grandmother’s House” was a big thing to a couple of farm boys living outside a small west Texas town. The phrase meant freedom to pursue adventures beyond those found on a section of dirt and cotton. Don’t get me wrong. Our place out west of town was home. There were endless possibilities to find there, but Going to Grandmother‘s was just different.
It was a change of scene and a chance to hang out with our buddies. Her house had more TV channels, paved streets for bike riding, and a miraculous thing called central air. Mornings meant rising out of bed with our feet meeting a warm carpet without freezing to the floor.
As a child in small town America, riding bikes was complete freedom with no limits. In those days we could set out early morning and not return until late evening.
I could write a book about the adventures we had together with our friends. In today’s tech world those stories would likely bore most readers. Still. There isn’t a video game on the planet that could even come close.
Having grown up during the Great Depression, Grandmother Dickson was a woman of habit and routine. Poverty doesn’t allow much room for risk. They too often end with very serious consequences. We’re largely affected later in life by the adults from our childhood. Through the years, I’ve grown to better understand that and why I took on some similar characteristics. Familiar is safe and her home was that to me.
She had “her” chair. Most grandparents do. A Lazy-Boy rocking recliner with hand-knitted warming blanket draped over its back. To the left of her chair on a wooden lamp table she kept notes and collected memories. Pictures of grandkids, and her Bible, decayed and worn from years of daily use.
Next to her Bible stood a tiny silver plated easel with an old adage in cursive writing.
“Make new friends but keep the old. The new are silver the other, Gold.”
That distant memory was recorded in my memory bank now too long ago to admit, but to me it was only yesterday. I still remember thinking, “Who are my friends and which would I consider Gold?” They’re similar in the fact that both are valuable yet the difference is, only a very few of them are most rare.
The Twenty-first century opened with a wake up call on 9/11/01. Braden was just 14 months old and we were shocked into the reality that our “secure” world was an illusion and not secure at all. In fact, it continues moving deeper towards chaos no matter how we wish it was “going to get better next year”. The year 2020 has been a double dose of reality and even life- changing for many. Some more than others.
In 2020, the world had the first pandemic of our lifetimes. Many laughed off the benefits of protective masks. The world’s economy was thrown off balance and many lost their livelihoods. Others lost their families. Still others lost their very lives not only from physical illness but perhaps worse, mental illness. Depression, isolation, and addiction.
A majority of individuals who contracted the novel virus called “Covid 19” returned to full health with little more than a cough or mild fever. Some of us even wear a badge of pride that it visited our home with no more than a mild fever and that we’re probably immune. Many others with weakened immune systems due to age or health conditions didn’t have it so easy.
This past year, many have been touched closely by the loss of love ones, not just from The Virus but from cancer, heart failure, mental illness, etc. Many of those reading now have personally experienced such indescribable loss. In the final months of 2020, our parents lost two of their friends.
The “Gold” kind. The rarest life long friends. Senselessly and Suddenly. Gone.
Mom wrote a four page letter to all of her children after Anita Hancock passed. It was her attempt to capture how much her friend had meant throughout their long lives together. She recalled memories of them raising their families both as farmer’s wives. Anita and her husband, Donald had two boys and one girl. Mom and dad had three boys and one girl. This common ground and their shared faith in God bonded them tightly through shared trials and successes.
Mom and Anita soaked up every second they shared together, never growing weary of each other’s company. They loved their reunions at our Texas Hill Country home and in many foreign places like the Holy Land where they floated on the Dead Sea, visited the Jordan River, and even rode camels. They shared memories of laughter and tears in a tightly knitted friendship worth more than all the gold contained in Fort Knox.
One of Dad’s “Gold Friends” was E.V. Murphy. He was a guy you really would have to meet to appreciate. He and his wife, Jeanne were like a brother and sister to our parents. In fact, “Murphy” accompanied mom and dad to Lovington, New Mexico as teenagers to witness their elopement and beginning of our family.
I remember E.V. as a work horse, providing for his family. He just never stopped. Always smiling, laughing, and joking.
What made their friendship unique, from my observation was no matter if they had a rare difference of opinion on something, they remained unconditionally loyal. Most times, dad would go visit “Murph” at home or on his job without so much as a call. He always welcomed dad in and they’d talk sometimes for hours. Pretty rare.
I’m not sure why it was important to write about this. Maybe it’s because almost everything I do and observe now is often framed in two questions:
1) How might have Braden and others today dealing with depression be helped by our own experience; and
2) How might I learn to live my own life differently to help avoid the loss of others.
I know Braden had at least two “Gold Friends” in his life outside his family. Sadly, although they remained close at heart, both lived hundreds of miles away and weren’t physically near at the time he was in his worst crisis.
Like gold, these kinds of friends don’t have to be physically present to hold their value. Just by knowing they were in our lives and how that made all the difference is most important. No matter if living 800 miles away or on the next street, no matter if friends here on Earth for 90 years or 18, they’ll always be part of us. That’s enough, for now.
I think a lot more these days about those who have lost loved ones, no matter the cause. Even more, I pray for those of us left behind after they leave us here, even though temporarily. We will never let go of them realizing they remain eternally treasured. We are assured of an awesome and eternal reunion.
Prayer: “Thank you, Lord for Gold Friends, even if just one. May I be that kind of friend, that kind of spouse, brother and son. Where there is one of your children today in search of such a Gold Friend, please help them be found. Most importantly, may they accept Your son’s invitation to be that eternal Gold Friend.”