To find someone who genuinely likes you, who actually wants to spend time with you on a regular basis, who you can be yourself around.  Do you know how lucky that is? An inebriated friend of mine posed this question to me last weekend as she pressed my date and I for our relationship status. I didn’t think twice about her comment until yesterday when I got the news that an old, dear friend of mine passed away.  His name was Greg. One of the many valuable lessons I learned from having him in my life was how relationships are amazing for all that they are, that embracing the good and the bad in a relationship only makes it better.

Greg and I have been friends so long that we’ve seen all kinds of shapes our friendship could take.  We’ve been each other’s buddies, support systems, romances, problems, comfort, frustration, and confidants.  Ultimately, after eight years of knowing each other, we have become the kind of friends that you know will always be a part of your life.   Whether we like it or not, we like and care about one another.

Once, just when he was leaving school, we had a big ol fight that neither of us would give an inch in. We didn’t talk for a long time and I just shut out every thought of him that I could, which was pretty difficult to do.  He influenced me a lot all throughout college, and cutting him out of the picture meant cutting out some of my favorite experiences and memories.  Of course, I didn’t consciously do it that way.  I was just mad, and I didn’t like to think about him.

It wasn’t until nearly two years later that I realized how much I missed out on by trying to forget him.  We reconnected over some random phone calls when we were hundreds of miles apart.  Our argument was water under the bridge at this point.  Laughing, we tried to remember what happened, and we both had different sides of the story to tell.  Turns out, we both had some pretty far off misconceptions about the incident.  As we kept talking, we found that we had inaccurate views on a lot of our time together.  We’d both cared more than we ever let on, and we were too proud to find out what the other of us was feeling.

After those conversations, I felt like a floodgate of memories had been opened.  I remembered all the good times we’d had together as I recalled the bad ones we tried to clear up.  I remembered his encouragement, his support, his compliments, his love.  The conflicts didn’t represent either of our character flaws, but more mistakes and growing pains.

When Greg and I had our last few conversations, we were so at ease with one another.  We were so honest.  I knew that what he told me was the truth, and I knew where I stood in his heart. That is one thing I am really proud of us for- that whatever we had been through, we’d learned from it.  We were better friends for it, and we were better people because we were a part of each other’s lives.  I am so thankful for that.

We are all lucky when we find that person who lets us in to their lives, who will always be there and always care no matter where your relationship goes or where your life takes you.  Too often we take that for granted or we don’t recognize when it happens.

When I heard that Greg passed away, my first instinct was to stop the hurt, to shake off all those memories with him in them, and to hold strong and stop the tears.  It didn’t take long before I let that notion go.  He taught me better than that. Now that he’s gone, I will hold on to those memories and cherish them for all they’ve given me.  I will remember him all the time, as I have ever since we made amends years ago, and he will continue to be a part of my life.

I hope I can honor Greg by letting others into my life the way he taught me to let him in, and by valuing those who welcome me into their hearts.