All too often, we don't appreciate the importance and value of good friends until they are gone. On the other hand, when we go through life knowing that those special friends are with us no matter what, we learn to have a deep appreciation for them.
We had that experience last week when we attended calling hours and the funeral for longtime friend Kenny Brown, who lived in Cortland and formerly on the family farm in Mecca.
Too many years have gone by for me to remember when I first met Kenny, but it was sometime during our high-school years. Then, we were together and had many contacts during our college years at The Ohio State University.
After college, we managed to stay in touch, even though at times we were separated by quite a few miles. We both enjoyed working in the field of agriculture, although Kenny got into banking for many years. He still managed to operate his farm that had been in the family for 100 years, and he was proud of that fact.
After we were both married, we were able to get together for New Year's Eve celebrations for at least 65 years. We think that is almost a record.
Good friends provide an association for us that we may not appreciate as much as we should. When one needs help - actual physical help or sometimes just a good listener - we know that friend is with us.
You know you can share many of your problems and that you have a good listener, one who is a source of strength during those "down" times. If you ask for advice, you can get it or you may need someone who will just listen to you. And sometimes the companionship of silence from a friend is enough.
Good friends will lift you up and be encouraging, not discourage you. They usually know you well enough to be able to be that positive influence.
Since Kenny and I had similar backgrounds, we had much to share with each other. He may have visited a farm and would share some of the new activities going on at that farm or new equipment or technology being used. He knew a lot about what farmers were doing in Trumbull County and enjoyed traveling around the county.
As with all good friends, we would work on solving the problems of the world, especially as they related to farming. We didn't always agree on the best answer for agriculture's problems, but we had answers. And we learned to "disagree agreeably," which is not always easy to do. That involves give and take and compromise that good friends learn to develop with each other.
We learn that we have to go more than halfway with each other and to be good listeners. Sometimes we can be so eager to share our point of view that we just plain don't listen to the other person. To have a good conversation, one has to learn to be a good listener and that may not be easy if we feel strongly about a situation or problem.
To be a good friend, we can't be so "wrapped up" in ourselves that we forget to recognize or listen to what the other person is saying.
So cherish and value those good friends that you have. They are worth more than money to you and one day you won't have them to listen and share with you. Now we have a void to deal with, but not nearly as much of a void as Kenny's family has.
When all the activities of the funeral are over and the friends have gone their way, they will really feel that void. Now is the time when they need friends and our prayers.
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune.