True friendship is to be cherished, and I have been lucky enough to experience that by knowing a special person. She and I have shared the gamut of emotions over many years. In the past few days, I've thought about our good times and conversations, our shared worries in the bad times, and the love that has colored our lives.
Her name is Pam and we've known each other since kindergarten. Our paths have taken turns that kept us apart in our younger lives, but we always kept in touch at Christmas. Then, when our children were small, we reunited. Circumstances separated us again until about ten years ago. Our reunion then introduced me to the most important person in her life; his name was Ray.
Ray gave Pam the true love and devotion she had always craved. I rejoiced for her that she had him. They both loved doing things together, whether it was buying a house and a business, attending football and baseball games, travelling, or shopping.
He was an easy man to know. From our first meeting with him, my husband and I felt we had known him for years. His endearing sense of humor, his keen interest in so many things, his caring attention to the people he cared about invoked instant respect. We were proud that he considered us friends. We were happy that he loved Pam.
Marriage for them came after several years together. It was a dream come true for them both. For me, it meant that my friend was - finally - experiencing happy-ever-after time. But fairy tale endings don't always happen to those who deserve them.
Today there are only tears for that loving couple. Today we say goodbye to the man who gave my friend the greatest joy of her life. Today we agonize about why those who have already endured sorrow and strife must endure more. Today my friend is alone and I am left helpless to comfort her.
Ray's sickness never had a name. His army of doctors could never nail it down although every avenue was tried. We all felt it just wasn't fair for someone as good as he to be subjected to such pain and stress. He fought bravely; I think he fought for Pam as much as for himself. And she battled with him, never giving up, even when her physical stamina was tested. She shared with me her fear that she would be robbed of the person she had waited so long for. He had his times of rallying, and that gave everyone hope. I believed, through it all, that a solution and a cure would be found. We all did. It just had to work out that way for them. A couple of weeks ago, his condition was improving. In a phone conversation, Ray laughed about it all. Optimism was the emotion we all coveted.
An evening phone call brought life to a halt. I recognized the caller ID and my heart sank. I just knew that the news on the other end of the line wasn't going to be good. But I wasn't prepared for the words, "Ray passed away." It wasn't possible. This charming man who had fought so hard, who was edging toward health, whose friendship was so prized. Most of all, I could not imagine the grief that Pam must be feeling. She has been robbed of the one possession upon which no value can be assessed.
True friendship is to be cherished. I now weep for two such special people. One who has left us with too many years diminished because he won't be here to share them. And I weep for Pam because she is left to endure a sadness beyond measure, left to face a world without her best friend, lover and companion for life.
I hope she knows that it is unendurable for me, too, because I care for her so much. I pray that someday soon she will welcome me back to her life, and let me help her cope with a life without her precious Ray. For now, I know she isn't ready. My words of sorrow will have to suffice. The tears I shed, I hope, will speak to him as he goes to sleep with the angels. For me, today is a day for friendship remembered.