Remembering A Friend
About a year ago, I wrote about kindness and friendship, and how I helped but ultimately failed a dear friend.
I discovered yesterday that at the time I wrote that essay, my friend had already been dead for two years.
Someone I loved – someone who had helped me and hurt me and I had helped and hurt in return – had died and I didn’t know it. This has added to my guilt and all my other mixed emotions I hold for this woman.
But in the end, I think the conclusions I drew last year concerning our friendship are still true.
Here is that essay:
Terms Of Endearment
I can easily come up with dozens of little kindnesses that I’ve experienced lately. If I go back further, I can come up with hundreds. Maybe thousands in my whole lifetime, which is about 2/3 of a century now. I’m grateful for those kindnesses and also grateful that I remember them. I’d hate to let a kindness be forgotten.
But I am now thinking of kindnesses that I myself have offered, and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, I seem to have forgotten most of them.
Maybe it is a virtue to pay a kindness and let it go.
But what if it is because I have been stingy with my own kindnesses?
I really hope not. I know I pay a lot of compliments. And not just lip service – I try to recognize excellence – to notice and call it out.
I tell people when I like their shoes, or when they have a great idea, or when their kids are fun to be around. I tell loved ones I like how they smell when I hug them – because I do.
I try to be considerate. I hold the door for people. I let people cut in line at the checkout – or change lanes on the road. I pick up trash.
And when I observe someone being nice to other people, I tell them that they made my day better too. Yesterday I was in the drug store and an old lady (probably my age) was shopping with a teenager. And the kid said, “I’ll put it back. It’s too much money for eye shadow, Grandma.” The lady said, “I don’t think it’s expensive if you like it.”So I went up to them and said to the woman, “That’s a really nice thing to say.”
So I guess I do a little to contribute to the kindness in the world.
But I think I could do better.
I need to be a little bigger in my kindness.
I’m trying. I joined my community’s preservation and beautification organization – and I helped with their website, and I planted daffodils this fall, and sorted returnables for their recycling program. Not much really, but it’s a start.
I think maybe I am a little cautious because the biggest favor I ever did someone backfired. And I was hurt.
Years ago I had a very dear friend, who I will call Anna. We met at work, and after both of us moved on to other jobs, we stayed close. We went to the movies together, and out dancing, and shopping. We had dinner once a week. We used to call our dinners, “My Dinner With Andre” dinners, since we had long, crazy, wonderful conversations. Anna drove over to my place late one night when my boyfriend broke up with me so I would have someone to cry with. And I took her to the hospital when she needed outpatient surgery.
We had been friends for about ten years when Anna called me early one Saturday and asked me to meet her for breakfast. Over coffee, she told me that she had gotten herself into serious financial difficulties, including pressure from the IRS. I loved this woman. So I bailed her out. I loaned her enough money to pay off her tax debt, her other past due bills, and the next month’s rent.
But then the worst thing happened. And it wasn’t that Anna didn’t pay me back. It was that she dropped out of my life. She made excuses why she couldn’t meet for dinner, or see a movie. After a while she didn’t even answer my phone calls.
I felt horrible. I thought at the time – and still do – that she couldn’t pay me back and that was embarrassing for her. And so she couldn’t face me.
I did finally hear from her years later. Out of the blue, she phoned me. Said she was sorry she had stayed away and wanted to see me. I met her at a diner for lunch. She was the same sweet woman I had cared so much about. She was also broke again and asked me for money. I gave her everything I had in my wallet and went home. I never saw her again.
It broke my heart.
I have been reflecting on this whole experience lately, as I have been thinking so much about Kindness and being a good human being.
But the moral of this story is not ‘Don’t lend money to a friend.’
For I would give Anna the money again.
The loss of money was not meaningful, and besides, I didn’t lose it. I used it to give respite – however short that respite may have been – to a friend when she needed it. It wasn’t the loss of money. It was the loss of friendship.
There are lots of good reasons why friendships end, but money should not be one of those reasons.
And I don’t blame Anna either. Whatever hardships – whatever demons – she was experiencing – who am I to judge?
My mistake – and it was MINE – was that I did not discuss the terms.
Not the terms of the loan.
The terms of our friendship.
The Terms of Endearment.
For here is what I should have said:
“Anna, this money is a gift to you because you are my friend and I want to help you. If someday you can return this gift to me, I would accept it with love. We will always be friends, regardless. I’ll call you and you’ll call me, and we will have breakfast and go to the movies and have great intriguing conversations. Our friendship is a gift. It is not on loan.”
- Posted in: Advice ♦ Aging ♦ Friendship ♦ kindness
I lost someone I considered a good friend over politics. I thought maybe I hadn’t heard from her since the election season last year…and so I tested…asked her to go with me to a play. We always used to go, always had fun. This year she just responded with two words: “I’ll pass.” I actually cried and will miss her so much. Makes me so sad. Not exactly the same as your loss…but still…it hurts.
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Yes. For whatever reason, it still hurts.
PS: I’m also sorry about the loss, the real loss, not just the friendship loss, of your friend.
I am feeling real sorrow – I feel we had abandoned each other, and now I can never get it back.
A good lesson in friendship. Sad story, though.
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That was quite a lesson learned, and I’m sure that you WOULD have said those things if you’d had any idea how this “loan” could change your friendship.
Yes. Knowing that I would do it differently now actually does help.
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I’m so sorry for your loss. This must have triggered my own loss of a friend, as I’m sitting here now crying and remembering that loss. Thank you for for reminding me how priceless our “soul” friends truly are. ✌️& ❤️
It does seem that when you lose a friend, all your other losses are part of the sorrow.
The loss of a true friend is a terrible thing. You mull it over again and again for years. Ut some friendships are only for a season. Heigh ho!
I hope that she had some happy memories of our friendship. I am comforted that I do.
Reminded that there are good people still inhabiting the planet 😊
Thank you. We should all try harder to be better friends.
I lost a friend like that. We were so close and then suddenly she had no time. I grieved. Then she was dying and I went to hold her hand. Her smile when she recognized me instantly restored our friendship. She is gone now for real and I grieve every day for the lost time.
Oh, but at least you have the memory and comfort that you ended well.
I’m so sorry for your loss. But I hope you aren’t too hard on yourself. I don’t know of too many of us who would have thought to state the conditions at the time, even though in hindsight it makes perfect sense. It’s just so hard to lose a good friend….
Thank you. You are right that I didn’t know how it would all turn out. I know I tried to be a friend, and I hope I am a better friend in the future.
So sorry to hear you have lost your friend. (The money is an aside to the friendship.)
I have not helped a friend out financially, but I did family, twice. I didn’t expect to be repaid the first time, but the second was slightly different and we agreed on ‘terms’. Not that I would have held them to them, but it was a matter of self esteem, and I wouldn’t knock that when I knew asking had been a last and desperate resort.
It is so difficult to know what to do. When I was a young adult,I needed financial help with some major medical care that I had no coverage for. My parents helped me out but made me repay them a bit every week. They could have gifted me the money, and I don’t think they were being mean. I think (and I even thought so at the time) that they were helping me into adulthood. With your comment, which reminds me of that occasion, I now wonder if things would have been better if I had expected some minor payment from Anna every week. Maybe she would have been able to maintain her self-esteem better that way?
You may probably never know the full circumstances especially now. When my relationship in Bath finished and I was holding down two jobs to try and clear my debts, my car packed up and Mum lent me £300 to buy a clunker. A few months later I was given a hefty bonus at work, so paid Mum back with a full year’s interest at 15%.
I remember my Dad telling me I could have anything I wanted as long as I saved for it. Borrowing the money from my Mum who could least afford it (it was her savngs from having students) really went against the grain, but I had no choice. We do what we must and what we can to help out.
We tend to find out who our true friends are when we need help with something. as I was reading your post, you sound so very much like me.
I have always heard to never loan $$ to friends, or even relatives. My husband kept loaning $$ to one of our sons, and it had a huge impact on us financially, as it was never paid back. Never even small payments. He went on to live off of so many of his friends…one after another. He knew he could live in our guest room, but never did. Saddens me to even think about it. “Tough love” in the beginning would have pushed him into getting a good job!
We tend to find out who our true friends are when we need help with something. as I was reading your post, you sound so very much like me!
I have always heard to never loan $$ to friends, or even relatives!
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your heart.
My mother always told me to never lend money you couldn’t afford to lose. She was an extremely generous woman, even when she started living on a smaller income. She always gave me money, which I never intended on paying back. As horrible as that sounds, our situation was such that it wasn’t needed. We were so close and losing her left a huge hole in my life that I still can’t fill, even after almost 4 years.
Also, I had a “friend” who I used to do activities with, I’d walk her dog for her when she was out of town, even though it took me 2 buses and an hour to get to her place. One day she was accepted by another group and she dropped me like a hot potato. Not only dropped me, but acted as if she didn’t want to be in my presence. These other women didn’t like me because I liked a tv character and would criticize the character they liked. If that sounds petty, it is. But her dropping me like that, and treating me badly like that, was something that took me a long time to get over.
You are a resilient human being ❤️
Hi Nancy, how are you? I read your story and was wondering if you and Anna had talked about what happened to her after you helped her financially the first time. I am not cruel but might have asked to see her IRS debts and so forth, and, maybe you did. Sometimes it can be hard to ask as if you were a business person or a parent, but also, sometimes generosity can got too far. What may seem like a credit to someone may actually be a hidden defect. The pendulum usually swings too far one way or the other and time is usually the best resource to come up with a reasonable decision. No one who is a friend or good business person or partner, or anyone who asks with good intentions, would be upset with the person they are asking for help asks for a little time to see what is best course of action. Reaction is not necessarily my best response but action moderated by some time to act. It is my concern, as a person who has come to see his own life’s mission to be one of curing his own defects, to ask myself, in this case, yourself, if we have been totally honest with ourselves or are trying to put a soothing bandage on this hurt by now looking at it through the meaning of Gandhi’s quote. Hurts can only be relieved by passing them through the heart to clean them; and cleaning them can only truly be done by revisiting the time they occurred, seeing them in an analytical way without the attached emotion. This is only achievable by going back and seeing without emotion and then seeing it more clearly that way and remembering more about what really we saw and heard which emotions block out. When we see everything more clearly, more analytically, we can see more of what really happened and remove the hurt which has blinded us for so long. Not sure, but I think was the Dali Lama, or Buddha, said that pain is unavoidable in this life, but suffering is a matter of choice.