Friends: Value them while you can!

I am a little late sharing this story but I think it is worth the sharing nonetheless.

It is a short story about friends, a story of both joy and almost unbearable sadness it is also true and it happened just this past weekend.  It is a story of two interconnected parts, in a way it is a story of two longlasting friendships.  One nurtured and one, to a degree, taken for granted.

In January of 2014 my wife and I made a little pledge.  We promised each other that we would make a real effort to take more care of our friendships.  Friendships are like houseplants, some need a lot of care, they need to be fed, watered and care for.  Others less so.  Some friendships can be left largely to their own devices, they grow almost unaided and so long as you don’t forget about them entirely they will still thrive. A little water, an occassional feed , some warmth and enough light and that is sufficient to keep them healthy.

On saturday we had some friends over for dinner.  Two of our oldest friends.  We see them very regularly in a variety of settings and they have been friends for around twenty years.  I even gave Jo away when they married some 16 years ago.  Jo and Alan’s friendship is real important to us.  When we are together we eat, drink and most importantly we laugh.  We laugh a lot.  we laugh until our sides ache and we can barely breathe.

My friendship with Pat was different.  Even longer lived, we had known each ther for close to thirty years and Pat was my best man when Shirley and I married.  Pat was a few years older than me and we mt initially through his job as a financial advisor.  To some our friendship was an unlikely one.  Me a Northern Irish Protestant and he a Southern Irish Catholic nonetheless we got on like a house on fire, fuelled in part by a joint love of Arthur Guinness’s black beer.

My friendship with Pat was one of those that didn’t need a lot of care.  You knew it was there when you needed it and it needed no more than the occassional phone call or a meet up for a pint every now and then.  It had been a while since I had spoken to Pat and then he rang me a while back.  As always he was full of life as he laughed and joked but he had rung to give me some awful news.  As was his way he broke the news with a joke.  He told me he had bowel cancer and should by rights already be dead.

We chatted for a while and Pat told me he wasn’t feeling too well but promised that we would meet up when he felt a little better.  Like a fool I accepted that.  It’s a strange situation that one.  You are never quite sure whether to push the issue or wait for the call.  It’s awkward, you don’t know whether to give space or impose yourself.  After some soul searching I decided to wait for the call.  In part I knew it was a little selfish to do so but I also thought that Pat would want to be withn his family and I knew that visits would be awkward for both of us.

Last Thursday evening Pat’s son David rang me to tell me that Pat was in a hospice and that he had gone to sleep and wasn’t expected to wake up.  I went to see him first thing on Friday morning.  He was asleep and seemingly pain free as the medication took effect.  Pat never did wake up and he died peacefully surrounded by his family on Saturday morning.

Pat will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.  He was one of the kindest, most generous and above all funniest men you could ever meet.  He had that cheeky Irish charm and a twinkle in his eye.  He had a seemingly endless supply of jokes and could have you in fits of laughter for hours on end.  I don’t believe I ever saw him cross or angry.

Selfishly I regret that we never did get together for that final pint.  I would have loved to have spent some more time with Pat, to have had that final chat.  Of course that was about my needs not Pats.  His passing leaves a hoe in my life.  One that can’t be filled, but it also leaves so many wonderful memories of times spent together over a few beers but most of all of laughter, always laughter.

So farewell old friend.  I will miss you.

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