They are fewer these days. But there are still some Christmas cards that are particularly precious because Christmas is the only time we hear from the non-social-media senders! One of those usually comes from J, a good friend of Helen’s at university. They’ve kept in touch and met up now and then. Helen always looks for J’s Christmas card because it comes with a few words of update. Then, last year, J said she was enjoying our blog...amazing from a woman always interested in existential matters but agnostic verging on atheist.
Christmas came but no card. Helen was planning a phone call yesterday but J’s husband phoned first. J, he said, had hoped to make it to Christmas but she had passed away on 19th December with bone cancer. All very fast. A 50+ year-old friendship ended – just like that. One of Helen’s few links with her university days and an important part of the jigsaw of her - and therefore our - life. Now – a missing piece.
And it was the same with another west country friend a few weeks ago. This time an unexpected Facebook message from her daughter carried the sad news. Not long before there had been the sudden death of Mike’s closest colleague for nearly thirty years.
We’re sharing these experiences not to make everyone miserable but because we know we’re not alone in having them or reflecting on them. We’re not alone in remembering the significant love and support that these friends offered – not necessarily in massive ways. Simply in the sharing of formative experiences and values at crucial times in life. People who contributed significant colours and shapes in the jigsaw of our lives. And we’re sure we’re not alone in asking ourselves, ‘Did they know what they meant to us?’
Last week’s blog on Christmas in Bethlehem brought some similar reflections. It attracted a larger than usual number of views and ‘likes’. Among the ‘likes’ came names from various stages in our lives. Friendships lasting half a century. Some much more recent. And it was heart-warming to see them jostling together in no particular order. A motley crowd of ‘our’ people - the gold, frankincense and myrrh of Christmas. Of our lives.
Here were people who had supported us through difficult times. Old, some very old, friends. Colleagues, students, neighbours. People who had made us laugh. People who shared our love of words. People who had had their children at roughly the same time as we did and with whom we had gone through the ups and downs of parenthood. Some of them ‘very-long-time-no-see’! Some who once figured prominently in our lives but now live at great distances. Without many of these people we would have made so much less of our lives. Some we are only in touch with via this blog.
So as 2023 recedes into the distance, we choose to give thanks for friends - absent and present. Their support, their values, their companionship. It’s time to say thank-you to all who have walked – and still walk - with us along paths broad and narrow.
Whether you have offered colour or quirkiness or contrast, whether you have been a corner or an edge piece in the jig-saw of our lives - or even if you have found our picture of the world a bit strange but kept in touch anyway – thank you! Thanks to you if you just read what we say and go away but don't give up on us! Thank you for being there and staying in touch via these posts.
Thank you and Happy New Year!
Photo: Asun Olivan