Ives wore a blue suit and stood by the door, speaking with one of the parish priests and greeting, ever so quietly, people as they came in. But now and then he would look off toward the casket and turn his back on the people, as the darkest thoughts overwhelmed him, and he would have to compose himself again. Every so often Ramirez went up to him, took him by the arm, and whispered, "You are all right, my friend."
Ramirez is Ives' best friend. Ramirez is not a saint, by any means. He cheats on his wife, physically abuses his son. Yet, he has a bond with Ives that lasts over half a century. Ives recognizes his best friend's faults. He gently pushes Ramirez to correct his behavior toward his wife and son, without preaching or anger. They respect each other and see each other through some very difficult times. In the end, this friendship saves each man from loss and despair.
On Thursday night, I hosted my book club meeting. At the appointed time, our friends and family showed up, bearing food and jokes. We ate and talked and discussed the night's selection (Hannah Nordhaus' American Ghost--a great read). Yet, the whole night was tinged with a little sadness for me.
One of my best friends is in the book club. I've known Sue for over 20 years, since before I married my wife. Sue has been the Ramirez to my Ives for a very long time. She's lifted me up when I've fallen, and I've done the same for her. We've seen each other through family deaths and marital strife. Sure, we don't always see eye-to-eye on everything, but we respect each other. Love each other.
Sue is moving away this weekend. She is now divorced and without family in the Upper Peninsula. So, she has decided to relocate to be near her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. I'm happy for her, but I'm going to miss her a great deal. She is a kind, sweet, sharing soul. Like Eleanor Roosevelt in D. H. Helhem's poem below, Sue has had a way of speaking to me in the loneliest times of my life. And for that, I am truly thankful.
So, as I put up my Christmas tree this afternoon with my daughter and son this afternoon, I will be thinking of Sue. Her friendship and what it has meant in my life. I will miss seeing her in the front pew at church. Miss her brownies at book club gatherings. Miss her long, rambling stories. Miss her.
Saint Marty has been blessed with a really good friend.
33. (from Country: An Organic Poem)
by: D. H. Melhem
walking underground to workers
reminds a president that what he can't see
I saw you once in my high school auditorium
thought you were not real having stepped out of
the radio and The New York Times
you hand a kind voice that spoke to loneliness
Confessions of Saint Marty