One of my few very dear friends is dying. She has been dying for quite some time, fighting against the debilitating, consuming enemy, who robbed her from all things beautiful and independent. She fought for years, but now, sadly, is losing the battle.
Before I can’t reach her anymore, I need to tell her how important she is (and will always remain) to me. I need to tell her this – because I never really did before.
The affectionate, sympathetic, and sometimes tender wishes and conversations between us seem today, almost banal; but I know they were never that. Thinking back over the years, they really never were banal. We are friends and soon she will be leaving.
We understood each other’s quiet pain. Me, struggling to become “normal” following the years in concentration camps, and she coping with a dominating and often cruel mother while her father stood by silent. I have to let her know how very much I needed and enjoyed her during those difficult years in boarding school. She never knew because I never told her. Telling her would have exposed both of us.
I don’t have to remind her of this.
But I will remind her of the coach we had back then – the one who belittled her each time she couldn’t finish his exercises. My friend was physically frail and often failed. I would speak up for her, and then later, we’d laugh, imitating his behavior and the way he spit when he spoke.
I will remind her of this and we will laugh again.
I have to tell her how I looked up to her as she consistently searched for God. She studied books of theology, and went to universities, hoping to find who God was and the meaning of His existence in a world He allows us to live in.
My perspective was and is so much simpler – perhaps someone long ago helped me with this, before she surrendered her life never knowing how much she meant to so many.
I have to remind her of the day the priest told them their son would not be welcome in his church, because he was gay. She told that priest that it was he who would not be welcomed by God at the end of his life and then promptly moved to a different city where all were welcome. A response so classy, I will never forget.
I have to remind her of many more things I admire her for: her deep intelligence, her patience with me, her gentleness for someone in pain, her dedication for the ones she was responsible for, her open heart, always welcoming the ones in need.
And I am thankful, my dear friend, for we followed each other along paths of living, sometimes difficult and unbearably painful and other times full of joy and support and gratefulness.
And I promise you, morning and night, I will be talking about you to the God I belief in, the one you have always found so mysterious. And one day, I know, we will meet again when all questions and doubts and mysteries are answered and clear. And there will be no more suffering.
Because my friend, suddenly I will not have another chance to tell you all this – I want you to know how valuable and respected you are in my life.
I love you.