Finally, it comes to an end. Life can begin its return to "normal." The non-stop gift receiving extravaganza that my kids have been on since Christmas eve has come to an end. Seriously - five days of being somewhere or with someone that involved the kids receiving gifts. I feel sorry for Tracy who has to deal with the kids today on this first day in so long that will not involve ripping open packages and seeing what gets added to their bounty. I got to escape to the relative sanity of the office, where it will be very quiet this week with so many people out.
I, too, have received a lot of great gifts over the past few days - things that I will enjoy very much. But, in reflecting on this Christmas season, I think that what I will remember (or at least what I hope that I will remember) is the reminder of the love and importance of friends. I am very, very blessed to be able to honestly say that my wife is my best friend in the world - the person that I most want to share everything with. I take that for granted all too often.
Through the tragedy of Jean's murder, I also have had the chance to see and talk to some of my best friends from growing up (elementary, middle and high school). People that I lost touch with for no real reason. People that were very important parts of my life for a long time. What I found most amazing was how easy it was to be with them, how comfortable, how honest to share a loving hug and support one another. Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." It was true - that love, that I didn't even know was love at the time, was still there.
I also had sincere, heartfelt expressions of support and love from friends that I have only come to know in the past several years - friends that didn't even know that I knew Jean.
There is another passage from Proverbs that says:
"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:24 (NIV). I was reminded of that this Christmas season. Friends are not the same as companions. Friends are not just temporary. Friends aren't just there for the parties and the good times. Friends don't stop being friends just because they don't see or talk to each other for a long time. Friends love at all times and stick closer than a brother. Friends are a gift from God.