“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” —Thomas Aquinas
I lost one of my dearest friends this past week. Today, I am sad. At the risk of sounding selfish, my life is a little emptier today for the loss of that friendship
However, I’m also sad for his family. He had two sons, daughters-in-law, and some beautiful grandchildren. Today is not the first time they are together like this. A couple of years ago, they lost their mother and grandmother. She was also a precious friend to my wife and me.
There are several reasons I will miss this precious yet giant of a person.
1. He was a friend
I know I said that already but understand, he wasn’t just an acquaintance or someone I knew and worked with occasionally. He wasn’t just another name in my iPhone’s contact list. He was a friend.
According to the dictionary
Friend [frend] noun,
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter
My friend was all that and more.
The very first time we met 25 years ago, we just connected. We “hit it off” as the phrase goes, and quickly developed a friendship. Even quicker, it seems, we became close friends.
Even as I write these words, my heart’s ache grows as my mind quickly reviews more than two decades of experiences and time spent with this choice man.
I am not afraid to admit that I loved him, and I knew he loved me. It was a known reality between us.
He was soft-spoken and quiet—very much unlike me. Because of that, however, his words carried weight and power and influence, not just with me, but with common acquaintances and other friendships we shared.
He had a tender heart—for the essential things in life. I could always tell how important something was and how strongly he felt about it; his voice betrayed him. When it was something significant, his voice tended to crack a little bit; it wavered, not because he hesitated, but because it was something he felt strongly about and he couldn’t hide his emotion.
You never had to ask where you stood with this man. There was never anything hidden. He was straightforward and honest—a man full of integrity.
2. He was a faithful friend
I believe these are qualities we too seldom see today.
He showed up.
Many times it was at the most unexpected yet most necessary times. My friend served on the Board of Directors for an organization I was leading. I don’t want to cheapen our friendship with this coloring, but he was an ally. By that I mean not just that he tended to vote the direction I wanted him to but in Board meetings you could always count on him to voice his belief and thoughts in a positive, constructive way. He was forward-thinking, ever optimistic, and never divisive.
Early on in my tenure with this organization, I had just gone through a particularly tough Board meeting. I felt pretty well ambushed and wounded.
The next day he came to see me without warning or announcement. He didn’t call ahead, didn’t check with my executive assistant, and there was no notice.
I sat at my desk quietly bleeding from yesterday’s meeting when he walked into my office, shut the door, and sat down in front of my desk.
In his unmistakably quiet and soft-spoken way, he forcefully said, “Let me set you straight.” Then he proceeded to give me perspective. He set the context, gave me the background, let me know who the players were, and how he thought I should proceed. Remember, I was new and shellshocked.
Now I possessed valuable information and background to which I had, until now, not been privy.
The last thing he said was, “Dave, keep going; you’re doing fine; don’t let this derail you. You’ll be all right. I love you.”
Then he was gone. And just like that, the bleeding began to slow, and the pain started to subside. He was right.
He and I lived to lead another day and face other battles down the road.
The above story was just one example of the way my friend helped…me, my family, our organization, and others.
He served in the background, never wanting the limelight, never seeking to see what he could get out of it. He had a servant’s heart, and he let it spur him into action.
On one of the most important nights of my life, I slipped out of a meeting to ask him to handle something supremely important. I felt it was critical to how the conference I was about to enter would eventually turn out.
When I concluded my current meeting and went to the next one, everything was handled, just the way I had requested. Moreover, it made the difference I knew it would
He spoke the truth.
Earlier I mentioned when this soft-spoken giant spoke, he spoke powerfully. More importantly, when he spoke, he spoke truth—and you knew it.
You and I have both known any number of people who say the right things when speaking to your face but behind closed doors, they say something entirely different.
They say what is necessary to get by and look good, but later it’s a different story.
The word “politician” comes to mind, but that’s a discussion for another day and certainly not on this website.
However, my friend was not that way. His speech was straightforward and honest and consistent. You never wondered where you stood. That’s an incredibly admirable (and rare) quality.
More important, he spoke truth to me. He was never afraid to challenge me or disagree with me. Sometimes he would press me to rethink my words or course of action.
The ancient Hebrew Scriptures often speak of friendship. One of the qualities of the friendship rooted there refers to speaking truth, even when it hurts.
“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
That was my friend. Did his words hurt? Sometimes. Did it ever affect our friendship? Never—except to make it stronger.
He tempered me.
Because he did speak truth to me, he often softened me. In other words, there were times when his words and advice gave me a new perspective and challenged me to rethink my plans or course of action.
More than once, at his encouragement, I made a strategic change. His influence saved me from doing something stupid, something that would not bring about the result for which I was hoping.
In other words, he often saved me from me. For that, I will always cherish his memory.
3. He was family
Real friends don’t stay friends—they become family.
My wife and I did not live close to our immediate family. So my friend and his lovely wife became surrogate grandparents to our son. Still today I occasionally come across pictures in a box of my friend and my son Adam.
One shows Adam with his surrogate Grandpa holding a colossal fish they had caught together that day.
Another shows Adam with my friend and the deer harvested from that day’s hunt.
My son is neither a hunter nor a fisherman today—it’s just not him. Still, if you asked him, those were some of the fondest memories of his later elementary years.
When our family was between houses (we had to move from our current home and couldn’t get into our new house for two months), we lived in my friend’s basement. I remember he was more than a little put off when I offered to pay him rent.
It was offensive to him.
You don’t charge family rent for living in your basement.
Why I miss my friend
You may think I romanticize a little too much my friendship with this man. Perhaps so. But, you see:
He impacted my life. True friends always do.
- I am a better man for having known him
- I am a better leader for having worked with him
- I am a better dad because of his influence
- My life is far more abundant because of the time I spent with him
That’s the impact that true friends have on you.
That’s why I miss him.
So what about you?
May I ask you some personal questions?
- Do you have someone like that in your life?
- Are you that type of person for someone else in their life?
- When was the last time you spoke to them or spent any time with them?
Call them today. Send them an email or a thank you note. Set up lunch.
If it’s been a while, spend some time with them. You’ll be energized, encouraged, and grateful.
I know what some of you are thinking. You don’t have time. There are too many things to do and too many deadlines to meet. Friendship takes time, and there is no time left in your life to invest in and grow that kind of friendship. I understand that.
If we were sitting across from each other in a coaching or mentoring session, I would look you in the eye and demand,
“If you don’t have a friend like that, find one. Because you need one. You do. There are no self-made people in life. We are the total of the relationships we have in life, and none is more crucial than those friends that are the closest to us.”
With that in mind, for whom are you that kind of friend? Do you have someone? Is there someone who needs you to invest in their life?
If you know the benefits of this kind of relationship, then find someone. Yes, they will probably be younger than you. My friend was much older than me. Surprisingly, you will get more out of that kind of relationship than some of your friends who are in your same age group.
The only things that honestly last in this life are the friendships we cultivate and the relationships we grow. To work on them is to create your legacy.
So long, Bill. You are loved and will be forever fondly remembered. Thank you for the role you played in me becoming who I am. Thank you for giving me the lasting legacy of friendship.
“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
Did you find this helpful? Then please share it with your friends and colleagues and encourage them to subscribe to my weekly articles.
Join Dave's Mailing List
Subscribe to get the latest news, information, content, and resources from Dave Weitz.