The Friends We Forgot We Knew

Friends are a funny thing as we grow older. Some stay in our past, while others remain in our lives forever. And then there are those that only pop up at the most critical moments.

Growing up, one of our joys in life was our parents’ decision to allow us to take a friend with us on family vacation. Throughout our middle and high school years, this was a source of incredible fun for us. And no one was more fun on vacation than Shane Bailey.

Shane and I went to Eastside High School together, played football together for one year, and hung out periodically throughout our four years. Funny thing was that we were not always together, and not always “best friends” or anything like that. In fact, we often ran in different circles. But we seemed to get together at various times for the best aspects of life. This includes fracturing a few rules.

And even a few laws. Well, several laws. Actually, multiple laws on multiple occasions.

I started inviting Shane on vacation with me in our freshman year, as we ventured to Litchfield Beach. We had a terrific time finding ways to get people to buy us beer and combing the beach for any girl that would talk to us. (If only we had been as cool as we thought we were!). We stayed out late at bonfires or whatever was happening. Perhaps against their better judgment, my parents trusted us not to get into too much trouble.

We’re still not quite sure what they were thinking on that one.

Shane taught me how to drive a stick shift when I was 15 and he was 16. We cruised the Del Norte neighborhood in my stylish tan Mazda GLC wagon praying that the cops and the neighbors would not notice.

After that, we took trips to Lake Toxaway, NC to my grandparents’ vacation house. We did not let on to my mom and dad even a tenth of what we intended to do in our time up there, from drinking beer to chewing tobacco to once again finding a vacation girlfriend. No corner of the lake went unturned in our quest for female attention.

Let me offer a word of encouragement here. Remember that I am a chaplain and a professor. Shane is a school principal. So parents, take heart–there IS hope for the future!

After high school, Shane and I went our separate ways. The funny thing is that the two clowns from the good old days always found our way back to one another at the most critical times of our lives.

Shane was one of the groomsmen at my wedding in 1991. We occasionally got together for golf when I could still play for free at Furman University (and when I still played golf). Shane and his mom were on the scene after my son Spencer was born. After that, we lost track of one another until our 20th reunion in 2009. We reconnected enough to enjoy the occasional text message, social media post, or phone call.

Then, in 2018, my dad passed away. One of the first people to contact me was Shane Bailey. He even shared a beautiful prayer with me that I used at my dad’s graveside service. Who knew that the guy who joined me to violate every rule, moral, or law over the years would offer a prayer worthy of my father’s internment?

Then Shane’s mom passed away a couple of years later. This was a woman who put up with an awful lot from me over the years! I had to reach out and share my best with him. I knew how much his mom meant and what a good woman she was to all of us.

Now my mom has passed away. And one of the first people to reach out on Facebook was Shane.

Friends are a funny thing as we grow older. Some stay in our past, while others remain in our lives forever. And then there are those that only pop up at the most critical moments.

It is unusual that sometimes our “best” friends when we are young are not always the ones that stay with us when we are old. There does not have to be a reason for this other than sometimes life happens. It’s not always the ones you spent the most time with that reconnect with you later in life. Instead, it is often those that formed the closest bonds, even in short periods of time, who strive to be there later in life and when life is the worst.

Or it could be those that happen to look up at the right time and reach out because they feel called to do so. It consistently stuns me when I hear from dear friends of the past at times of grief. Just weeks before my mom died, I attended a funeral for my friend Wells Black. Ran into a slew of high school acquaintances and friends there, almost all of whom reached out to me about my mother. One of those people was Wells’ cousin Laura.

She came to my mother’s visitation, and we texted a bit leading up to my mom’s service. I commented that it would be nice if we could connect somewhere besides a funeral. She replied that “funerals can serve as gentle reminders that we have friends who love us even when we don’t see each other often.”

Perhaps that is a sliver of the good that we see even as we lose someone we love.

We always need to be grateful for those who remain close that are always there when we need them, like my friend Jamie from high school or our friends from college. We received dozens of calls, cards, messages, and visits from friends, as well as congregations we served years ago. This includes our dear friends from Camden County, 8 hours away and 20 years in the past, a few of whom made the drive to be present for mom’s funeral.

But we can also be grateful for the prayers and encouragement that comes from people we might least expect. Is there any greater evidence of God’s overwhelming grace than those who show up in our lives when we need them the most?

As we struggle with grief and loss, it really does not matter what stupid arguments we had in middle or high school. Or any falling out or falling away we had in the past. Or the fact that we did not stay in touch as well as we should have after graduation. The important thing is that people we once loved find a way to reconnect when we need them the most.

Proverbs 17 says that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother (or sister) is born for a time of adversity.” I still struggle with the grief of losing my father, and now I have lost my mother. In the midst of it all, I am encouraged by rediscovering the love and kindness of friends—some eternal, and some re-emerging from the past.

I can barely keep up with my friends’ birthdays on Facebook, much less the various hardships of life. But it is my hope and prayer that I can be some small comfort to them in their time of need, as so many of them have lifted me. I am thankful that so many reached out in so many ways, large or small, to make life a little better when it was at its worst.

May we all be reminded that it is never too late to let the love and grace of Christ shine through us. What is past is past. What we do now and in the future is what makes the difference from this moment forward.

2 thoughts on “The Friends We Forgot We Knew

  1. Mike and I were so sorry to hear about your Mom’s passing. Mike has lost both of his parents and empathizes in your grief. We were in Europe with my family when all this occurred.

    I have to add that the best thing that came out of Facebook was re-connecting with your wonderful wife!

    Liked by 1 person

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