My father died when I was twenty-two. My mother didn't arrange an official funeral or wake or, you know, public gathering. It was a very private goodbye and consequently people had no real vehicle or method or deadline to express their condolences. I remember feeling devastated and very alone during that time, and it was one of those periods where I gained a new perspective on what it means to be a friend.
When we're young, we don't know what to say to someone who's faced something awful. We want to say something--we want to say the right something--but we're sort of at a loss of what that is and we're afraid of saying the wrong something, so very often we wind up saying nothing.
One particular gesture from that time has stuck with me ever since. A childhood chum of mine drove up from my old hometown to take me out to dinner and talk about my dad. Three hours on the highway up, an order of enchiladas (with no rice or beans) for dinner, two hours of talk and assurances that my father had done more living in his 52 years than most people could fit into 90, and then three hours on the highway back. I was so touched by this gesture of friendship and what I learned that night is the value of showing up.
A week ago Mark and I attended the funeral of the father of one of my high school students. His death was an accident and a shock. I didn't really know the man, except from back-to-school night and similar functions, and it's been at least 15 years since his son was my student. But I had an impression of the family from things the son had said (and the character that he exhibited) and I had a sense that this family of 7 was extraordinary because of their closeness and humor, which were obvious to anyone who even brushed up against them.
The funeral was held about an hour and a half drive from my home, and I had all the reasons in the world not to attend. It's not like I would be missed. But ever since my father's death, I've understood that it's important to show up. So I did.
Over time I've seen that this doesn't just apply to funerals. In big ways, in small ways, it applies to everything.
Friends show up.
That's not to say that if you don't show up, you're not a friend. I can't be everywhere and I sure don't expect my friends to be everywhere, either. But the friends who show up are remembered and appreciated and treasured.
And even in this small way, here you are.
Thank you for showing up.