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What Friends Do

Tonight I have to go the funeral home.

One of my dear friends from high school just lost her brother. It was unexpected; he was found dead, sitting in a chair with a book in his lap. He'd had a tough life, filled with addictions and mental illness and it finally caught up with him.

I will go and hug my friend, even though I didn't even know her brother.

My best friend died in 1978, of a recurrence of the cancer he had when he was a little boy. He was 33; I was 26. He was the first of my close friends to die. The grief paralyzed me to the point where I couldn't move. But more than that, it paralyzed me to the point that I couldn't even be there for his wife, my other best friend. That inaction broke our friendship apart, irrevocably. I didn't see her or talk to her for almost ten years, when we all gathered for the weekend after another mutual friend's husband died. We spoke, we hugged; I think she forgave me as much as she could. We haven't seen each other or spoken to each other since then.

It is my biggest regret, that in my own grief, I let her down.

So now I try to go. If I can't go, I make a call or write a note or send flowers or make a contribution. Do I do this for me? Partly, I suppose; maybe it's a form of penance. But I also do it because that is what friends do. I want them to know that I wish I could make the grief easier and the hurt less, to tell them that I hold them in my heart.

Yes, that's why -- it's what friends do.

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