I lost a dear friend yesterday. Donald Battjes. He was my friend. We had been friends for ten years. Losing a friend, a real friend, is like a small fissure opening up inside your soul. And then it grows larger. And deeper. Pretty soon you feel the best part of yourself falling into a Grand Canyon of sadness.
Don lived in Los Angeles and Provence. He had struggled with some health issues over the past few years, and so he was diminished, at least bodily, but his spirit remained intact. Intact and strong. He was so happy to be in Provence this spring. I talked to him last week. He was happy. Alive with love and friendship and curiosity about life. He was enjoying his house, a house he had worked hard to restore and bring to life.
He was here and now he is gone. There is nothing sentimental about death. Nothing. The finality of it is sobering. Some people are comforted by the assurance of an afterlife, as if our absence from one another is only a temporary inconvenience. Maybe that is the case. I’m not sure. I want to believe that I will see my friend Don Battjes again, and that we will sit on a heavenly patio overlooking a heavenly field of lavender and drinking a heavenly glass of French rosé. If it is so, then it is so. Any discussion of an afterlife, in the end, is speculation. Yet, I’m acutely aware today that there is love after death, and love in the midst of loss, and friendship endures, not in the physical body, but in our spiritual consciousness.
I am feeling so much loss today. Loss and gratitude, gratitude for someone who loved me, listened to me, laughed with me, and on occasion, cried with me. I went through a divorce a few years ago and I lost friends. I don’t know any other other way of saying it. People I thought would always care for me disappeared. Maybe I deserved their scorn. I don’t know. But what I do know is this — there were a few people who held onto me and would not let go and who checked on me everyday and who could be happy when I was happy and sad when I was sad. That was a handful of people. One of them was Don Battjes.
Don and I talked a couple of times each week. When he was in Los Angeles, we got together once a week for a glass of wine or a cup of coffee or lunch in Pasadena. He was a friend. Doesn’t that word say everything? Friend. He was in my home. I was in his home. I visited him in France last year and had such a nice time. I made dinner one night for him and his friend Trinka . . . roasted salmon and shrimp on a bed of roasted vegetables. I started with a potato soup. Ended with cheese and baguette. It was a perfect evening. I had such fun shopping and cooking that day.
I’m not talking about Don in order for you to think about Don. Or for that matter, it’s not about thinking of me. I’m asking that you to think of people you love and people who love you. Cherish them. Give thanks for them. And if there is some blip between you and your friend, forget about it. Let it go. Forgive. Or receive forgiveness. Don’t wait. A real friend is so rare . . . like a perfect rose in a garden of roses . . . and if you have been blessed with a friend, count yourself lucky.
Take a Breath today. Remember a friend. Give thanks for a friend. Write a friend. Call a friend. Helen Keller once wrote, “Better to walk in the dark with a friend than in the light all by yourself.” It’s true. Every now and then we get both — walking in the light and walking with a friend. That’s what I had with my friend — Donald Battjes.