Blank. That’s, actually, how I feel today – and, let’s face it, I have done for most of this week. I don’t even have any notes beside me from which to garner my usual riveting material, which is strange. I haven’t really been watching the news – just too depressing – and the days have all merged into one. Perhaps it’s the aftermath of the funeral on Wednesday … That of a much-loved friend of an old friend of mine, I only met Jane on a handful of occasions but she meant the world to many, as was obvious at her funeral. A humanist service, Dancing Queen was playing as we made our way to our seats, a song which Jane loved and which was entirely appropriate, apparently. It made me smile and reminded me of how complex people are. For the Jane I met was quiet, kind, softly spoken, independent and, I thought, quite serious. How wrong can one be? Turns out she loved singing, dancing, travelling, cocktails and partying the night away, often on the table! Only today, I learned that she loved nothing more than to go riding on the beach, something we could have done together … I didn’t know that. Turns out, I didn’t know the real Jane at all but most of the many friends who gathered at Warriston on Wednesday to bid her farewell did.
The celebrant must be applauded. He had never met Jane but he spoke as though they had been friends for life! Interspersed amidst the details of her life and numerous adventures, he read the memories of many whose lives she had touched – and there were many – making it abundantly clear what a special friend Jane had been. Once known, she didn’t lose touch, distance and time no object. How many are lucky enough to have friends like that? From childhood right to the end, she had friends who spanned the years and a bond like that cannot be broken. As I looked around at the packed room, I understood the lesson. Here was someone who had got it so right. Life and its passing. So many years, so many phases, so many ‘friends’. Those who seem so important, so all-consuming for a short while and, then, are gone. Yes, they enrich one’s life – and the memories remain – but those are transient ‘friends’, not the real kind.
I always remember Pop telling me that he counted himself lucky to have a handful of friends; the real kind. As I’ve said many times before, he wasn’t a fan of people, in general. If he liked someone, it was instant – there was no growing on him – and, if he didn’t, it was also instant and most definitely not subject to review. Those deemed worthy, however – wit and intelligence being the key – were rewarded with loyalty in spades and a friend for life. He enriched their lives and they, his. One of them, Guy, had been a friend since schooldays back in Glasgow. They didn’t see each other often but, then, they didn’t need to. The bond remained and the intervening years melted away courtesy of precious memories and shared laughter. It was Guy – the very Reverend Guy – who would marry me; well, not literally, but he conducted the service. I’ve forgiven him!
Friends. The importance of … That’s what I took away from Jane’s funeral and, surely, there can be no better tribute? Friends from childhood, university or later years; those who are scattered far and wide, whom one rarely sees, or those with whom one’s only contact is the Christmas card, predictable but missed if it doesn’t come. I suppose they represent one’s life, really; one’s footprint in the sand. What is it, though, that ensures a friend for life? Is it the shared memories of these precious formative years, shared humour, values or just an inexplicable connection? I have two or three childhood friends with whom I keep in touch. There were lapses of time but it didn’t matter. Childhood bonds are special and there is a pattern of re-connection with advancing years. Similarly, those from university days with whom I shared a flat and so much more. Hopes and dreams, they knew them all. The innocence of youth cannot be recaptured but the memories are indelible and the faded photographs, treasured. Funny, all it takes is a shared song on the radio and there we are, right back in time; the clothes, the hair, the place, the friends, the fun – and the heartache.
Friends in real life? Met through one’s children? Transient, really, with exceptions. One of my best friends, I met in the school car park when Manny was rocking the involuntary bowl cut and shorts! Still haven’t shaken her off – and, for that I’m very glad. Then, there’s my friend, Janet, now living in El Paso, Texas … Becca was at Nursery with her son, Adam, all these years ago, and the connection remains. Life has certainly thrown us some curved balls – and we rarely see each other – but we’ve picked up on Instagram. Still the same.
What more can I say? Friends – and family – the essence of life. The ones who remember that unforgettable silver Christmas tree or the infamous red record player; the one who sang harmony to all your Donny and David Cassidy records and still teases you about it; the one who searched for a replica of that precious red record player for your special birthday. The ones who helped you move twenty-six years of your life and kept you sane; the one who phoned you every night, without fail, and ‘held your hand’ in court … That’s what’s important. Wednesday reminded me of that; Jane reminded me. She got it so right.
‘It seemed they had always been, and would always be, friends. Time could change much but not that.’
Winnie the Pooh
This is Trish, signing off.