Thank God, Serach and I have lots of friends. While this can sometimes place people into situations where they have many friends, but none close enough for when times demand or call for it, we are also blessed with some absolutely incredible close friends whom we can call and rely on whenever and for whatever necessary and who will always do what they can for us just as we would do for them. Even among those friends, however, there are always friends who simply are above and beyond the rest.
Last week, I was forced to think about one such friendship and couldn't help but be saddened. Eight, nine years ago, when I was in Israel, a close friend of mine turned into a rock of friendship that, during one of the most difficult periods of my life, helped keep me sane, positive, religious, and helped turn around my life and direction in ways that even some of the closest people in my life may never really understand.
When I visited this friend about a year later, I was dismayed to find that a difficult accident had completely changed this friend's plans and altered their life in ways they didn't want to acknowledge, yet attacked with a vengeance. As always, though, they simply adapted to yet another difficult circumstance and moved on, acting as if there was nothing in their way and there would be nothing to stop them. My friend is nothing if not tough - perhaps too tough, sometimes - but there is no such thing as giving up and no such thing as giving in.
A year or so later, I finally was able to introduce my friend to Serach - to show her who this great friend who would do whatever was necessary was. Within minutes, they were kindred spirits (perhaps mostly because they could make fun of me together, but kindred nonetheless), and our next task was to return some of the favor by helping this friend plan out the next few years of their life through all of the difficulties they had and would come across. On the flip side, meanwhile, this friend once again became a rock - to me, to Serach, to us, to our kids, to our family... even to some of our friends.
It is hard to put in words what it means to be reliable. Some people don't even bother trying to be; some people say they will be, but too often fail; some try, and sometimes they fail; some try and try and once in a while come up short; and some are just... there. The friend who will run halfway across a neighborhood because someone is outside your door claiming they have a knife with your wife and baby inside and you're not picking up your phone because you're in class - that's reliable. The friend who will (without you knowing) babysit when she's supposed to be going out with friends because she knows you really need it - that's reliable. The one who can walk into your home and make up a whole meal for everyone because people are sick - that's reliable. The one who will stay up all night helping you unpack boxes to move into your new place even though they haven't slept in a day themselves and have class in the morning - that's reliable. The one whom you can trust every damn day no matter what with anything, the one who you can talk to about anything and know that they'll get it and keep it to themselves - that's reliable. The one who knows when you're full of bull and there's something seriously wrong and has no problem calling you on it - plus, they've already figured out what happened and are already doing what they can for you, even though they're moving away that week - that's freaking reliable. (And it's horrifyingly sad to know that you weren't nearly as good of a friend to them as they were to you, to know that you weren't always there for them when they needed it, to know that you were like this even though they would always be there for you even when they really couldn't afford to be. It's so, so bad, and I'm so, so, so sorry.)
Friends like this don't come around often, and when they're there, as much as you might try to avoid it, you start to take them for granted. You take them so for granted and rely on them so much that when they ask your advice again a few years later, you have to force yourself to give the advice that is best for them, and not for you and what would help you. And when they finally decide on their plans, it is all you can do to not burst into tears - both of incredible happiness at what they've accomplished and that they're moving on to the rest of their life, and of intense sadness that they're leaving and how that will impact you, your wife, and your kids and all they rely on and all they feel.
Perhaps the hardest part when a friend leaves is when you know that it might be a while until you see them. You don't want to have a "goodbye", because it's not - and saying so only reinforces that you're not going to see them. When my friend called from the airport, after a tearful goodbye with Serach and the girls while I was at work, I couldn't even bring myself to say goodbye - I didn't even want to talk, knowing that I'm far more likely to keep in touch if I don't. (Of course, I probably came off as rude, uncaring, and distant/not paying attention as always to this friend - sigh.)
Instead of saying goodbye, as I got off the phone, I said simply "Have a safe trip, we'll talk to you soon. And we're really going to miss having you here all the time." As always, nothing else needed to be said - our friend understood just as always.
If you've ever been to our home, you've met our friend, and undoubtedly felt her impact on our lives, and really, on your own. We owe a debt of gratitude which we'll never be able to repay, but have a friendship that we will never fail to appreciate, even if we have sometimes failed to show that appreciation over the years.
Rivka T. - we love you, we miss you, and we better see you soon.