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Lynn Hummel: What are friends for anyway?

I stopped to take a good look at a picture that’s been hanging on the wall a long time, but in an area around the corner where we seldom pause to look at pictures. But I did pause for some reason. The photo was taken at an outdoor birthday party about 30 years ago. What caught my attention was that all of the friends there, nearly a dozen, are still friends. That’s not unusual, but it is worth thinking about. Then I found a picture of four senior baseball experts at a Twins game. More to think about.

What are friends for anyway? John Donne lived about 400 years ago, but he said it about as well as anyone ever has:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent; ... any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

When it comes down to it, I’d rather die penniless than friendless. Friendship is a wealth all by itself. Looking back at that picture, the people are roughly the same age. Their parents were about the same age, and so were their children. And now, their grandchildren are about the same age. Eventually, their great-grandchildren will be about the same age.

This is not an exclusive group of friends, or a clique new friends come and go, but the core group, mostly arriving here about the same time, continues.

This means we’ve celebrated together the birth of our children, their birthdays, we’ve gone to their concerts, plays and ballgames, then their graduations and eventually to their weddings. We’ve gone to one another’s birthday parties, celebrated together at Christmas and New Years and gathered at one another’s homes in between. We’ve gone to the funerals when parents or family members died. In short, we were young together, laughed together, cheered together, cried together and now we’re growing older together.

These friends are our second families. Of course, there are others friends at work, friends at church, neighborhood friends, and all are important. And the benefits are many: somebody to talk to, somebody to listen to us, somebody to support us, to say a good word behind our backs and somebody to care about us.

And finally, somebody to come to our funerals. As I said, I’d hate to die friendless. I’d like a handful of friends at my funeral, all more or less sad to see me go. And as Yogi Berra once said, “We should always go to our friends’ funerals. If we don’t, they won’t come to ours.”

But before that final bell tolls, one last suggestion from Daniel W. Hoyt who fought for in the Union Army in the Civil War, then wrote about it:

“If you have a friend worth loving, love him. Yes, and let him know that you love him, ere life’s evening tinge his brow with sunset glow. Why should good words ne’er be said of a friend till he is dead?”