Monday, December 29, 2008

The Majesty of Friends

Over the years I've noticed that what we call our friends might change (my buddies, my boys, my home-ies, my peeps), but the importance of friends never changes. In fact, the importance of having people you know and trust and love within reach grows with each passing year.

Maybe that's why #4 in our count down of the Top 10 LifeNotes of 2008, "The Majesty of Friends," received such a strong response from our subscribers.

If you missed it, here it is again. And if you've already read it, perhaps by re-reading it you'll want to call or write a friend who might need a reminder of how vital he or she is to you. I hope you enjoy it.


Friends. I’m deeply thankful for friends.

The above picture was taken a couple of years ago and includes my parents (top right) and all their friends who could make it to the luncheon. Why did they get together? Because they’re friends.

I’ve had an incredible opportunity over the last several months to get to know many of my parents’ friends, some of whom have been linked together for more than 60 years. 60 years. I remember many of them from when I was a boy and addressed them by their formal names—Mr. Flynn, Mrs. Watson, Mr. Bayle. I don’t know when it became okay to use their first names—Jack, Ada and Emile—but somehow these senior friends of my mom and dad have brought this relatively young man near. And I’m dazzled by what I’ve found.

They knew my parents in a way I never did. They knew them in college—at parties, after tests, on weekends, on dates, and when they voted for the first time. My parents’ friends knew them when my dad got his first job as a cartoonist, and they knew them when he gave it up for something more certain. They knew them when my brothers and I were born, the last one, Evan, no doubt leading to some great comments since he came along nearly sixteen years after me. At the kidding of their friends, my mother used to say, “Well, the welcome mat was out all those years, it just took him a while to find the door.”

My parents’ friends argued and worried together during the Cuban missile crisis and the Kennedy assassinations, during the Johnson-Nixon-hippies-protests-Vietnam War era, and fretted during the so-called gas shortages of the Jimmy Carter years. Politics was the fuel of many conversations I overheard my parents have with their friends. They argued and debated over which type of emphasis the government should take for the best of America, liberal or conservative. As you can imagine, those debates have blazed hot all over again during the last dozen years or so. Man, they could really fight. You might think they would have ditched a friendship or two over the years. Nope.

And over all of those years, my parents’ friends showed up at my baseball games and 8th grade graduation, taught and watched over me at Boy Scout camping trips, chaperoned me at proms and dances, celebrated my entrance to USC, threw parties for my fiancĂ©, sent baby gifts for my daughters, and bought copies of my book. So much of what I remember had my parent’s friends in it. No matter their differences and who was in the White House, they were always there.

And they were there at each of my parents’ memorials, dabbing at their eyes and beaming at my parents’ sons. I can’t tell you how many times some of them told me, “Your parents were so proud of you.” or, “How your mom/dad would have appreciated what you boys have done and said at today’s memorial.” And I heard at least ten times, “You boys are really something special, you know.” Coming from them, “you boys” felt like the most honorable title in the world.

My parents’ friends are magnificent.

So today I'm thinking about my friends. From California to Croatia and back again, my friends are the best part of what I have in this life. Yes, Jesus is my friend, too—my best friend—but getting together with one of the Steves, hanging out with Pete, laughing with Don or Ken or Peter, working out theology with Roger or Mickey or Rick, driving through the countryside with Laurie and Retha, emailing with Mike or Blake or Denise or Carla, or just chatting with Jeff or Gene or Susan or Anthony or Trish by phone, friends mean more to me today than they ever have.

While there are lots I haven't mentioned (like Janet and Beth and Cathe and Len and Jenn and Ryan and Feike and Laura and Lori and-and-and), my friends have my respect and admiration and thanks. And like my parents' friends, they've been through a thing or two with me, and have remained steadfast and faithful, even though I've sometimes taken them for granted. See? They're friends. I love them deeply and plan to keep them close and forever.

I wonder what my daughters will say many years from now. Wait—no, I don’t.


  1. Anonymous5:00 PM

    Hey Ralph! I'm in California for Thanksgiving with the family. Head back to Oz on Friday night. Enjoyed your note on friends.
    Hi to the family and Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Anonymous11:20 PM

    From the heart, my man. Well put. And the feeling is completely mutual among all of us.
    We love you!

  3. Anonymous11:21 PM

    Ralph, this is very sweet and tender. Thank you for sharing with us.

  4. Anonymous8:34 AM

    Nice tribute dude.

  5. Anonymous11:21 PM


    Thank you so very much for sharing... I couldn't help but think of those many individuals who through the years have been friends... some for short periods of time, but yet friends, and deep friends.

    Funny how what we label as life or journey, what ever, that all and I do mean all the way through, The Friend, the very Spirit of Christ is not only our friend but through the very grace and love, our Friend sees to it that specific individuals are our friends for that part of the journey... that very place where grace abounds. To God be the Glory!


  6. Anonymous3:30 PM

    Hey forgot me...Robinia in Long Just messing with you.

    Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Thanks so much, my friends.


  8. Anonymous10:50 AM

    Hi Ralph,
    This is absolutely beautiful! I am so sorry for the loss of your parents.
    What a wonderful legacy they’ve left you.

    Thank you so much for LifeNotes. This is a great work.