"Friendships are forged in both the most familiar and the strangest of places. We have childhood friends, school friends, university friends, neighbourhood friends, work friends, girlfriends, boyfriends and best friends. For some, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and lovers are also natural friends!
Indeed, it could be argued that we spend a great deal of our lives building friendships, and whichever way we cut it, we all need to know that there is someone out there who 'gets us'. I would even go so far as to say that it is part of the human condition to crave a closeness with other human beings.
Whether we have a small group of close friends or an extended group of widely different personalities around us, each relationship brings something new into our lives and provides us with the inspiration to see the world from a different angle. Some friends will be a mirror likeness of ourselves whereas others will be as opposite to us as chalk is to cheese. Some we may use as a shoulder to lean/cry on during hard times, and others will become our cheer leaders and enablers, rooting us on in all weathers.
Each friendship offers us something unique to treasure. Hence, friendship should never be abused, betrayed or taken for granted. If we are wise, we will spend time cultivating such friendships and learning to be there when most needed. That is why the best time to turn up in your friend's life is when they are most likely to need you; after breakups, at graduations, upon being informed of a serious illness, at weddings, Christenings and funerals. Whether near of far, our friends have an eternal place in our hearts.
While I have had many mates and associates throughout my life, I could count my close friends on the digits of both hands. Indeed, my friends were so important a part of my life that they help form me as much as many other experiences. And the strangest of all, is that I don't have to tell them I love them or that I often think of them, or that I miss their regular presence in my life since they moved away; they know it as do I with them.
When it comes to 'independence', I am as independent a person as they come, yet I know the true value of friendship. Ever since I was informed three years ago that I had a terminal illness, contacts from family and friends has sustained me as much as any medicine/medical treatment ever could. The mere fact of knowing that I do not travel my journey alone is the greatest support of all. I would rather walk any distance with a friend in the dark than walk alone in the light.
I have had some exceptional friends in my life, among whom I am proud to say that my brothers, sisters, mother and wife stand tallest. One of my oldest friends, Tony Walsh, whom I have known since teenage years and who has lived back in Ireland for the past fifty years, is a good example. We were too close in friendship when Tony returned to Ireland fifty years ago for us to say 'Goodbye', so instead, I have always considered it that he went on 'an extended leave of absence'. We have only met up four or five times since, but when such occasions occur, within seconds, it is as though we never parted and our last conversation naturally continues where it left off. Don't get me wrong, Tony and I were never clones of each other. Were I to jump off a bridge, he wouldn't jump after me, but I could rely on him being below to catch me before I hit the ground. That's what I call a close friend, perhaps even a flat mate!" William Forde: January 22nd, 2017.