A Letter from a Friend

by Chris Riley
New Jersey, USA

Two years ago my wife died. We had been married 11 years and our son Steven was almost 3 months old. Jill and I were very happy with Steve, and she was on maternity leave from her reference librarian job. One day I came home and found Jill dead on the floor. The autopsy showed that she most likely died of heart arrhythmia. There were no signs of struggle or pain; she was dead before she hit the floor.

The next weeks were very difficult. I was on medication for suicidal fantasies and depression. But the outpouring of love from hundreds of people helped me get through the days. And I always managed to give Steve a smile, even when tears were pouring behind it.

One of the best gifts I received was an e-mail message from Paul, one of my best college friends. Printed and framed, it sits on my desk and I read it often. Here’s most of it:

Letter From a FriendI haven’t been able to get up there and see you in far too long. It’s like I’m stuck in this rut between work and home, only allowed out occasionally to go and see family. So many friends, lost track of over the years — and fading away over time, maybe forever….

E-mail keeps a slim lifeline with some friends, but too few. Then things happen that make you sit down and think ‘What type of person am I really? What kind of a friend?’

Maybe it’s just fear. How many of us can truly face the things you’ve had to and still look life square in the eye? I know what you’ve had to go through is only my worst nightmare. But could I face it?

Yes, I suppose I could with the love of a small child in the balance. But where do you find the strength? I’ll tell you… Look to those friends. Even just reaching out to re-establish friendships brings back life to my soul — even after all these years.

So when life looks the bleakest, look to us, your friends, and we will be there to help you, guide you if you need us. Give you support when times grow dark, and shine with the light that only friendship can bring. Feel that light when I say: Call on me should you need me, and I will be there, as your friend.

In the two years since I got that message, I’ve taken it to heart and relied on my friends for a lot. Steve is now two and a half, and counts, calls out letters, plays and laughs. He’s generally happy. I’m doing well. Therapy, antidepressants and support from friends all help.

I wish I could say I’ve seen more of Paul, but I haven’t. However, I do hope to rekindle that friendship. I still cry whenever I read the message; but it’s a good reason to cry.

Originally published as HeroicStories #368 on Dec 23, 2002


3 thoughts on “A Letter from a Friend”

  1. I just recently reconnected with a friend from my childhood – we lived next door to each other and shared many good times. We found each other again through Facebook and are looking forward to getting back together in person later this summer or next year. We now live in Oklahoma and he still lives in Oregon.

    One thing is for certain, Really Good Friends are there whether you live next door or half way across the country.

  2. One of the best Heroic Stories, I have read this site for years, it will go everywhere I go, thank you all for sharing.

  3. When my dad died in 2009 (two months after my twentieth birthday, three months before my brother’s nineteenth birthday, and less than two weeks after my parents’ twenty-first anniversary), we didn’t expect many people to show up to his viewing; he wasn’t the most social of men. But we were all surprised. Quite apart from the large number of people he’d worked with, for, or over who turned up to pay their respects, we were joined by several of my mother’s former Girl Scouts, my high school French teacher, and my best friend from middle school with her mother–none of whom we had seen much in the previous few years. And when it came time for the actual burial, two people showed up that I honestly hadn’t been expecting. One of them, Jon, was my dad’s best friend from high school; I’d heard a LOT of stories about him, but I hadn’t actually seen him since I was a toddler (so little that I didn’t even remember him, really). The other, Eric, was someone my dad had served with almost twenty years previously–and not had the remotest contact with since. He had seen my dad’s obituary online and tracked my mom down to find out when and where he could come to pay his last respects.

    Ever since then, I’ve made an effort to track down as many of my old and dear friends as I can, to reconnect those golden friendships. I don’t want to wait for the next tragedy to strike to have them reach out to me–or me reach out to them.


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