How you can be a good friend when life sucks

Being a good friend isn’t easy, but it’s simple: Just show up.

Last week I went to a funeral for my good friend’s dad. And I’ll be honest there was a part of me that wanted to run, shy away, draw back.

I’m an introvert (maybe you can relate).

Then, there are no guidelines, clear protocols, understandings of how to conduct yourself when you go to a funeral for a friend’s parent.

So I endeavored to do what I could. The moment my plane landed, I texted my friend announcing my arrival. He asked if I wanted to come over to his mom’s. I said yes, of course.

When I got there, I greeted his sister, mom, kids, wife, and of course, him. Some conversation was made. But mostly I sat, and was just there.

Then he and I went out to eat with a couple of his kids, and we talked about all kinds of things: friends, him, me, us, family. And we inevitably talked about death and his dad. It wasn’t scripted. It wasn’t perfect. But it was rich.

After we dropped off his kids, we went out to get a cup of coffee and talk and spend some more time together. We reminisced and shared stories.

I told one about how I almost peed my pants while filming a video for a client in the middle of some random neighborhood in East St. Louis while the client was there, and how I was looking for a bush to go in and then had a brilliant idea to go to a complete stranger’s house and knock on their door to ask if I could use their bathroom. To make matters worse, it was around 630am. And somehow I talked my way into that complete stranger’s house in East St. Louis and used their bathroom, and I thanked God that I didn’t pee my pants in front of our client. He laughed; I laughed; we laughed. Then he shared his own stories, and I almost peed my pants (metaphorically) again. At one point we were crying from laughing so hard at some of our stories, mostly his, my belly hurt. It was magical.

It’s weird how much you need to laugh when there’s so much pain surrounding you, in you. Laughing heals.

Eventually, we made it back to his mom’s place, and I went back in even though I had no idea what to do. I didn’t want to intrude or be a nuisance, but I also wanted to be near and supportive.

They were just moving around as they normally would, and I said that if they needed me to leave that I would. They said, “No, no, you’re fine,” but my insecurities made me feel unfine. After spending some time with all of them, I decided to leave.

The visitation was in a couple of hours, and I still needed to change clothes since I doubted my hoodie, albeit black, would be appropriate garb for the occasion.

After changing, I went to the visitation, said hello, hugged folks, made some conversation, paid my respects, reflected on the deceased, life, my life, death, my death, and moved on. I didn’t leave though. I sat in a wing backed chair, waited, watched, pondered, and prayed. An hour passed and I saw that I wasn’t needed, so I left.

And I thought about what I was feeling and what it meant to be a good friend in a time like this and how awkward I felt and sounded. But I kept on thinking about a conversation I had with my son when he asked me why I was leaving to go out of town again.

I explained to him that friendship is mostly just about “showing up, just being there, that’s often all that matters.” When I said it, I don’t think I knew how true it was.

To be honest, I felt like a dolt much of the time. But I resolved to be present. I didn’t need to talk, say the right thing, in fact, I probably said something stupid; but I was there. And it was all driven by love.

“Love covers over a multitude of sins,” the Bible says. That was very true for me.

No matter how doltish I felt or acted, I still seemed to get the feeling across that all I wanted to do was love. And it was received and welcomed.

When I was younger, another one of my best friend’s dad died, and I didn’t go to his funeral. It was one of the great regrets of my life.

I don’t exactly know why I didn’t. At the time, I would have said something about it being out of town and that I was just there a couple of weeks ago. But that’s lame. I was lame.

I think I was just afraid. I didn’t want to feel unwanted or like an idiot or be doltish. Instead, I acted like a fool and failed as a friend.

This time I wouldn’t.

You see, friendship isn’t about being perfect. It’s more often than not about being present, “just being there, showing up.” It’s about telling embarrassing stories about yourself so your friend can laugh. It’s about being willing to make yourself uncomfortable and just love.

Even if you’re an introvert, insecure, unsure, a dolt (like me), just show up. And magic will happen.

Anyone can be a great friend.

You can, too.