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Friends as friends, not opportunities

A man I knew died last week. I didn't know him well enough to call him a friend. Brian was an acquaintance, someone I admired and hoped to know better one day.

We had been in a few meetings together and I couldn't help noticing how he combined a wonderful sense of humor with a heavy dose of kindness. It's rare to find someone whose wit is tempered by compassion.

Brian also struck me as someone who deserved to be called wise. He listened carefully, measured his advice, thought before he spoke. His words carried weight, especially with those who knew him.

I can't mourn Brian as a friend. My sadness over his passing is totally selfish. I wanted to get to know Brian, but now I never will. I am left with impressions, not memories.

Brian's death reminds me again of the fragility of life and the delicate nature of relationships. People pass through our lives so quickly in this transient world. Perhaps all we get with them is a meeting or two, a phone call or a quick note.

When I was younger this thought didn't bother me a bit. I was running too fast to make much time for relationships beyond a small circle of close friends and family. Acquaintances passed by with hardly a nod. I am sorry to think I looked for what people could do for me before I appreciated them for who they were.

I held friendships carelessly at times, thinking true friends understood that I was often too busy to keep up my end of things. I was too impatient to spend time on friendship alone. My friends usually were people who could do things with me. I was not yet old enough to just be with friends.

I am older now. My heart tells me that friendship is more precious than I once imagined. My experience indicates that a good man _ or woman _ is harder to find in this world than I once fathomed.

Making time for people of substance has become an important part of my life. I have learned to drop a note or set up time for coffee or lunch. My "to do" list includes calls just to check on people I care about. I am more aware that connections to others are the substance of life, not stepping stones to my own goals.

In mourning Brian, I am saddened by the lost opportunity to enrich my life with his friendship. But I also rejoice in the realization that my understanding of the world has grown deeper and my circle of friends continues to grow wider.

Brian's death motivates me to follow up on every inclination to call, every opportunity to grow a relationship. His sudden passing reminds me to consider my time with others as sacred opportunities.

_ Dale Hanson Bourke is the mother of two teenagers and the author of five books.