No one wants to lose a loved one, but awhile back when I did, to my surprise I gained a great deal.
I would describe him as the brother I never had, except that I do have brothers. This dear friend though, was a brother such as I never had.
Although we weren't tied by blood, we had bonds much deeper. We were Soul brother and sister. Soul, that is, with a capital "S," a name for God that denotes spiritual qualities such as harmony, beauty, enduring goodness, purity, and spiritual depth. These attributes of God constituted the fabric of our relationship.
I sensed from the beginning that this friendship was one of the ways God's love was being made known to me. It was one of those glimpses into what all our relations with others should be like.
In all the time I knew him, and sometimes in demanding situations, there was never an unkind or even a slightly irritated word spoken.
The book of Proverbs states: "A friend loveth at all times" (Prov. 17:17). The best way to describe this kind of relationship is something Mary Baker Eddy, founder of this newspaper, said during an address she gave in Chicago when remarking on the human and divine coincidence: "Pure humanity, friendship, home, the interchange of love, bring to earth a foretaste of heaven. They unite terrestrial and celestial joys, and crown them with blessings infinite" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 100).
What bound the two of us was a quick sense of humor, combined with an unending appreciation for the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. We could talk about any topic, but our conversations were sprinkled with insights from these books, which we both saw as inexhaustible sources of inspiration, joy, and discovery. Our love for God animated our friendship. It was the glue between us.
We'd planned to get together "in a few weeks." He wanted to show me more about a computer program he'd already introduced me to, when he passed on suddenly.
He is out of my sight, but not out of my thought.
I realized that this man's best friend, and mine, is God. God caused the love between us, and He maintains that love. Friendship does not die; it lives on and blesses each involved, and continues to flourish because what we gain from such encounters has a way of replicating itself in the way that an echo does. I have a nearly indescribable feeling of realizing that though my pal is not here, he is not gone. He is as close to God now as he was when we'd get together for a bowl of soup. And my relation to God, too, is undisturbed.
I've seen in various ways that what God gives He does not take away. Spiritual friends, or friendships based on divine Love, are permanent gifts that continue to bless. Our friendship was based on the divine friendship we enjoy with God. As a well-loved hymn states:
O Lord, I would delight in Thee,
And on Thy care depend;
To Thee in every trouble flee,
My best, my ever Friend....
All good, where'er it may be found,
Its source doth find in Thee;
I must have all things and abound,
While God is God to me.
(John Ryland, "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 224).
As I've grown to learn more about God as "my best, my ever friend," I've seen new ways His love is expressed, even in small details. For example, the program my friend had planned to show me was explained to me unexpectedly by another friend. He talked me through the mysteries I'd encountered, and we solved them together.
Another part of the hymn says, "When all material streams are dried,/ Thy fullness is the same." Understanding God as Friend enables us to feel that friendly presence each step of the way.