when you tell someone "you're my friend" you are saying to them in that same breath "you are very special to me", and that you freely choose to enter into relationship with him/her. this is why friendship is categorically different from most other relationships, and why it is so special, because it is a relationship of free will. we do not choose our parents or siblings, or our teachers or classmates or co-workers or neighbors. all those relationships are chosen by forces outside ourselves (though of course how we relate to them is our choice). but friendship is different, and is why it has been heralded by poets and wise people throughout the ages.
i do not use the term "friend" lightly. it is not a status i give to everyone i am acquainted with, but only to those whom my heart is drawn too in some special and particular way. there are different types of friends, people who are special to us and revolve around our lives but within different spheres of proximity. the outer sphere (generally where most of those we call "friend" circulate) are dear to us and we may share a lot or a little time with them, have fun with them, and share common interests. the middle sphere are our good friends, people with whom we are particularly close, share feelings and thoughts, and laugh and cry together. the immediate sphere belongs to our best friends, and generally this is a very small cluster of people, often only one or two may really circulate within this sphere. they are the ones to whom we share of our deepest self, we hold the strongest bonds of trust,we live in mutual knowledge that no matter what we are there for one another in sickness and in health, in poverty or wealth. this is the reason that spousal relationships are often described as "being in love with your best friend". and within this small sphere of best friends we find our true friend/s.
what do i mean by true friend? he or she or they are the one/s whose best friend status has been tested and deepened with time. the one who stays with us though the years, and if for some reason a lapse of communication happens, even perhaps for years, when we are reunited the joy is overwhelming and the conversation picks up as if it were only yesterday when we spoke last. a true friend is the one who often knows us better then we know ourselves, who can call us on our faults and we value their critique (even if we don't agree with it). a true friend knows us so well that he/she knows what we need before we speak it. i would like to share a story from my own life which demonstrates what i am trying to express.
when my mother died in 2005 i received phone calls from many dear and good friends. without exception each of them sincerely said to me "if there is anything you need, anything, do not hesitate to ask". though i knew in my heart they were all speaking truthfully and would most likely done what i asked of them, i could not ask them. you see what i needed at that time, more then anything, was for someone to come and spend the weekend with me, to stay by my side through all four of the visitations (afternoon and evening of the two day wake), and also be with me the day of the burial. how could i ask someone to be with me for so long a period of time, and in such a depressing situation.
of course the first person i had called when i got the news was my best friend of 20 something years, no one home when i called so i left a message on his voicemail. soon my call was returned, and before i could say anything she said to me "do you want me to come and stay with you", she knew what i needed and offered it without a request. i immediately replied "yes". she lives in the city, a good train ride from my apartment in bohemia, and came out to be with me the next day. now i should mention that my best friend never visited my place mostly because she is not fond of dogs, and i had two large and over-friendly dogs at the time. but that did not stop her from coming and sleeping on a sofa for three nights. and through all the sittings at the funeral parlor and day of the burial at the cemetery and the dinner, she was with me. it was that weekend that i came to understand the difference between a good friend and a true friend. i have thanked God everyday since for the blessing of a true friend.
and on this special day i say to her once more and publicly - "i love you. you truly are my best friend, and i would gladly die for you."
© 2010 halley low