As I ponder the recent deaths of two longtime friends, I am reminded again that the richness of life is determined by our relationships with one another.
My college roommate Rojeane Collins Wood, died in January. I met her at age 18, a freshman from Cleburne, Texas, with a decided drawl. One of the many things I learned from her was the best way to clean a room — make sure you have happy music playing, preferably something with which you can sing along.
Last week my friend Max Brattin died. We both graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University in the '60s. I left to marry and have a family. Max went on to become a college professor of economics. When he joined the faculty at OBU several years later, we reconnected at Shawnee's First Baptist Church, working with college students.
One of the many things I learned from Max is that words are not necessary for someone to know you love them. He “did” love. He never intruded, but if you needed to talk, he had time to listen. If something good happened for you, he didn't go on and on about how wonderful you were, but he was there to help you celebrate. If you didn't want to talk but didn't want to be alone, he offered his quiet presence.
Max never married or had children, but last week I smiled every time those of us waiting in his hospital room were asked, “Are you family?” We all think we are. His friends — of all ages — and scattered over the globe — comprise one of the biggest families a single man could ever imagine.
There isn't enough space to adequately describe the importance of these two people in my life. The best I can do to help you know how much they mattered is by borrowing some lines from one of my favorite philosophers — Winnie-the-Pooh.
“We'll be friends, forever, won't we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.
“Even longer,” Pooh answered. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.