The other night I bid farewell to a dear, near lifelong friend. No – not in the manner you may be thinking. He retired, moving on to the next chapter in his life. And amongst the huge crowd that came to wish him well were other retirees. My favorite description for retirees is that they’ve either just finished petting a basket of kittens in their car before coming in, or just dropped a Quaalude. Either way, they are the happiest, most rested, tranquil, and profoundly at peace people you’ve ever seen. And they ALL look years younger! (Says lot about the stresses of work, doesn’t it?)
But as I stepped up to offer my congratulations and best wished to Kenny, I looked around the room and was struck at the enormity of the sea of emotion contained within those four walls. Not blatant, not boisterous, barely discernable to most. But the depth was staggering to me.
Most all of us in that room had known each other for 20, 30, even 40 years. We had worked together, played together, and sometimes fought – together and also against each other. And each of us had grown our own personal deserts through the years; wives, children, homes, boats, motorcycles, and countless other material things we all acquired. We all experienced loss, tragedy, and sorrow; family and friends died and voids were forged within each of us.
Yet as I prepared to speak, the 50 or 60 faces all turned towards me, reminded me of flowers in a meadow, all turning to the sun. And no, I do NOT consider myself a sphere of light and warmth!! It’s an analogy for goodness sakes! Case in point; almost immediately upon my arrival an old friend almost literally spilled his personal sorrowful tale of his stage 4 cancer and all that awaits him in the near road ahead to regain his health. Yet his face was among the others, all turned towards me with smiles; awaiting words that would flavor their celebration of the retirement of a common friend and colleague.
Each had their own private battles, agonies, or demons momentarily cast aside to celebrate the nostalgic memories and bath in the sweet sentiment of the celebration of our collective time together. And it occurred to me in that moment, what a potent and powerful potion friendship truly is; it can sooth the tortured soul, satiate that internal suffering, and suffocate those debilitating self-doubts. For those few minutes, fears were replaced with hope, sorrow replaced with laughter, and loneliness replaced with the warm embrace of friendship.
What a power it is that we all hold, often carelessly and cavalierly. We each hold the power to change the color or someone else’s life – their personal desert. With a mere smile or kind word we can paint brilliant reds and yellows into the dark corners of their landscape; brightening their entire world.