Last evening, with the stars serenely basking on the dark backdrop of night’s cloak, I listened carefully as a friend shared his heart with me. Up too late, I was nestled in the warmth of my bed to escape the hum of activity in the living room. As I lay listening, I often felt–more than heard–the words that spiraled to me through the telephone.
There is little that escapes the eyes and the heart of a true friend, and our conversation reminded me of that truth. Despite the hectic pace of days, it is our friends who notice the little bits and pieces that make us whole. It is our friends who see us when we cannot see ourselves. Friends cast a fishing net of sorts for each other, bringing together the parts of our selves that might have gone adrift or–if it weren’t for the seeing eyes of a friend–might have gone forever unnoticed and forgotten.
In the shroud of the wintry night, my dear friend wove together pieces of the story we share. My thoughts took me back to our first meeting on a sunny springtime day over twelve years ago; we had smiled and exchanged a few polite words at the row of moss-covered neighborhood mailboxes. At first, he was merely a neighbor with a devilish smile and an intense, steely blue stare. Then, over time, he became a friend, a treasured friend. It was he, a giant of a man, who stood guard over me last spring when my mother had a stroke. The evening she was rushed to the hospital, we spoke briefly on the street. As daylight faded into dusk, he saw from my eyes that I was mired in pain. Listening quietly, he felt–he knew–that I was terrified at the thought of waking in the morning as a motherless daughter. Having just lost my father, he understood through the tears that I could not bear the eternally too-soon loss of my mother. Later that evening, knowing I’d softly cry the night away in my bedroom, he prodded me to cross the street, clothed in soft robe and slippers, to sleep on his couch. Through the night and into dawn he sat next to me, holding me with his eyes–but not his touch. His concern was such a gift of love, a precious gift of heart and spirit. Though many moons have since passed since then, I can feel within me that night–the precious wonder of a caring soul who sees into the heart, the spirit, of another.
It is through such poignant shards of life that friends weave themselves into our lives. There is no precise moment when a neighbor becomes a friend, when an acquaintance becomes one step closer to the inner circle of one’s world. It happens slowly, gently, and ever so quietly and softly. It is found in chance encounters, in the invitation of simple words that meld into heartfelt conversations. Friendship evolves as our spirits shift and blend to embrace a bit more, to open ever wider, to see a little deeper with the knowing and accepting eyes of the spirit. Differences and similarities surface, drawing us ever closer if we dare. Such is love, such is life. Such is friendship, sweet and precious friendship.
My conversation with this friend, this gentle, yet lion-like man, ended last night with me knowing on the deepest of levels that he sees me as I am within. Past the sunny smile and sparkling eyes, the long dark hair and buoyant gait, he has glimpsed my soul. In turn, I have come to know his spirit with a keen and loving gaze. And so, without words, we both felt the warmth of the deep bond between us. “You know,” he said with misty blue eyes that I could feel and see through the dark space of night, “things glance off me. It’s not the same for you. Life runs through you. You are spiritual, and you feel things in a way I never have…in a way I might like to feel…” As his words drifted often into the wintry air between our homes, I knew he had captured pieces of me in his own fishing net of loving friendship.
Later, as I lay immersed in quiet thought, I realized his words had offered an essence of me that I could now see and feel in the mirror of my soul. A mirror that allowed me to look upon him, too, through eyes that could reach more deeply and know more completely. Through his eyes, I now understood a bit of my own being more fully. He had held up for my viewing another facet that is inextricably intertwined with all that is life, all that has known life. “Look here,” a voice echoed, “look here at this prism of your being. Notice how it reflects you, how it reflects and touches all that you see and feel. You are a part of it, and it is a part of you.”
Yes, life is a river that runs through me. I feel life’s waters deeply, and every nuance, every turn, every ripple is a part of me and I of it. I am reminded of the words of a mentor, a man who pierced into the depths of me when he stated, ever so simply, “You are exquisitely sensitive.” At that moment, my life made more sense, fragments of my being coalesced into pieces of a growing image. In the same way, last evening I came to see myself more fully through the eyes and words of a friend. Like a river, I am strong and gentle…wild and serene…deep and wide…delicate and fierce. And I feel intensely the smoothness of curved pebbles, the wincing sharpness of chiseled boulders, and the delicate softness of the sands beneath me. And through the eyes of a cherished friend, I remember that all of the river is beautiful, that all of it is me…and you.