Jay Lenkersdorfer

Navigating life has never been something that is easy to do but it is certainly more attainable when you have a friend to go through it with you.

I’m not a big user of social media and thankfully neither are those I call friends, but I am on Facebook occasionally and do have friends there. Each day as I go through my emails I see messages about what my Facebook friends have posted the previous day including the Facebook generated messages reminding me of all the people in my ‘friends’ account that is having a birthday that day. Just today I saw that one of my friends from high school was having a birthday.

I posted a short message on his Facebook account wishing him a happy birthday, but I had to smile about doing so because I’m not sure if the two of us have spoken to each other in the past 30 years. I suppose that my ‘friends’ list would have two or three parts. The first one would be a list of those I know or have had dealings with somewhere in my life. They would be current customers, people I attend church with, people I have worked with or otherwise known in my 61 years of existence on this earth.

Keith, the friend I wished a happy birthday to just this morning, is a friend from high school. I’m sure that we had a shop class together and maybe more than one class if I go back through my years of school. There are many friends like him in my memories but being able to see his Facebook posts has helped me re-connect.

Looking back over my three high school yearbooks some time ago was like taking a time machine back forty years. Many of the messages dealt with seeing them that summer or had a specific reference to what they would like to be doing. One irony was that the three times my absolute best friend in the world signed my yearbook it was something like “hey, hope I see you this summer, or let’s ride scooters” when it was perfect knowledge that we would spend three evenings a week for the entire summer together.

My second class of friends would be people I have had a significant experience with. These friends are probably not those I went to school with but maybe we worked together or have had a passing friendship with. Dave Cottrell, a friend from Muscatine, Iowa, is someone that fits into this category. Dave was one of my advertisers, but our friendship went well beyond that. He is the first person I spoke to when my job transferred me from South Dakota to Iowa. A friend of a friend, Dave picked my wife and I up at the airport and essentially showed us the town as we were trying to decide if we would take the new assignment. From those first few days knowing him we had a lasting friendship.

Another friend from Iowa had a lot of influence in my life. Dan Laughead was his name, and his profession was plumbing. Dan was goofy in so many ways but he had a tolerance for anything and anybody. I recall the day he and I went to a viewing together. A 16-year-old boy in our congregation had died and neither of us wanted to go to the viewing alone. Dan said he would pick me up, but I was a little surprised when he pulled up in front of my house as a passenger in his 20-year-old’s crappy old pickup. We made the one-mile trip to the mortuary where Dan’s son, Joe, dropped us off, promising to return after he had gassed up his truck.

Upon leaving the mortuary we saw Joe’s truck parked way back in the parking lot. When we opened the door we discovered exactly why he was so far from the other cars. As we opened the door, out wafted a cloud of smoke from Joe’s truck. It was the smell of marijuana. It wasn’t a secret that Joe had a drug habit but neither of us expected him to be lighting up in the mortuary parking lot. Dan’s simple reply to his son was to say, “Dang it Joe, I have one suit to my name and now tomorrow when I speak at the funeral I’ll be stinking like pot.” At that point he simply did his best to air out the cab of the truck so we could get home with the least amount of contamination. Dan loved his son without reservations and that’s part of why Dan was among my really good friends in life.

The third group of friends on my list would be my very best friends that I have met and known over my lifetime. Sadly, I’m out of space to say too much about this group. Suffice it to say these are the people I would donate a kidney to, would bail out of jail or cross the expanse of the nation to help. They are people I treasure and though the list is short, they are the most important in my life. These people are my family, my siblings and a short list of people whose friendship I will value into the eternities. I hope I’m worthy enough to be on their ‘best friends’ list as well. The best way to get a friend of this caliber is to be a friend of that caliber. I hope I measure up.

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