Wednesday, July 17, 2013
The loss of friendships. . .
I recall how deeply my parent's lives were changed when one of their friends died at age 39. I knew my physician not merely as a doctor but as a trusted family friend who was as familiar to me and my brother as those whom we called family members. I well recall the privilege of being part of the whole shebang (campaign to inauguration) when one of their friends became Governor of Nebraska. I watched as in the freedom of leisure time and in the demands of illness or need, these friendships endured. Sadly, my folks have buried many, perhaps most of these friends. New friendships have filled in some of these gaps and some family relationships have replaced the loss of friendships so important to their lives. They laughed and loved, wept and grieved, counseled and encouraged, played and worked together with these people the whole of their lives.
As happy as I am for those deep and abiding friendships my parents have so long enjoyed, I am sad to say that I have not benefited from the same in my own life. I understand that moving away from Nebraska to live in New York and then Tennessee has distanced me from the friends of my youth. Most of them also packed up and moved away for job, spouse, or interest so I am not alone in this. The nature of my vocation as Lutheran Pastor has meant that my closest friendships have suffered geographic distance, intensive devotion to the calling, family needs and responsibilities, and the natural drift of lives headed in different directions. It is not that I am unfriendly with the friends of my youth, college, seminary, etc... It is just that the nature of these friendships is very, very different that the kind my parents knew and have known their whole lives.
When I accepted the call to Tennessee, it meant breaking with the deep and loving friendships my wife and I enjoyed in the parish there for some 13 years. It has to be. They would call a new Pastor and it would not do for them to have a former Pastor competing, second guessing, or interfering. I understand it even if I do regret the loss of those once close and dear ties. Our relationship changed when we moved and another Pastor came. It was not and could not ever be the same again. Even as I know that, I grieve the loss still.
As with many parents, new friendships came often through our children. Little League friendships formed by watching our kids compete on the field and school friendships engendered by school, parent-teacher associations, band boosters, etc... were short term friendships that came and went as our children outgrew both the sports and schools.
Now I find myself at a certain point in life, thinking about and regretting the lack of life long friendships the kind my parents knew and still know. I wonder of this is not more common than not. I wonder how this has impacted the nature of marriage, family -- even church. Perhaps as a sign of the times or a personal lacking on my part, no matter, but the friendships known by my parents have escaped me and, I think, some of my children. No matter how understandable or inevitable this is, it is still something I regret and grieve.
There is a loneliness that has befallen folks like me. It is not that we are without friendships. It is rather that the nature of our friendships has changed. I call and email many folks yet it is not the same as regular time spent together that once characterized friendships known by my parents. I suspect I am not alone in this.