Superfluous Communication?

I have not seen a couple who are friends of mine for at least 11 years.  We live probably no farther than five miles apart.  We hooked up through Facebook some time ago and we exchanged a couple messages.  Nothing new.  Life was going well.

About a month ago, looking in my business card file, I found the wife’s card so I called her to see if the information was current.  We talked in the phone briefly and decided to get together for a lunch after her tennis game on Friday.  On Friday at 11:30 I was at the place we selected to have lunch.  She wasn’t there so I waited for fifteen minutes before calling her.  She responded immediately and after apologizing for the delay she said that she would be there in five minutes or so.  She was there in three minutes.  Promptly, we were seated and she proceeded to tell me that her husband may not be able to make it when suddenly her phone rang.  It was her husband letting her know that he would be there in a few minutes.  I told her that it was great to have both of them for lunch.  When the husband arrived at the table, I stood up to welcome him.  With great surprise, I notice that his right arm was missing.  I choked.   I didn’t know what to say.  It has been eleven years since we saw each other last. We hugged each other and sat down at the table.

We ordered food and drinks while talking back and forth about our lives the kids, our jobs, and other common friends.  I keep wondering about the missing arm, what happened? Automobile accident? Skiing accident? Or what?  Is it rude to ask? I don’t want to embarrass him or myself, what should I do? Then the wife excuses herself and goes to the ladies room.  The husband and I look at each other.  He proceed to tell me about his battle with cancer, the chemo treatments, the pain, the inconvenience of not being able to do what he loves (he is a professional ski instructor) and his unknown future.  He and the doctor chose to let the arm go in the best interest of defeating cancer.  The surgery went well.  He is a very strong man.  He recuperated quickly and began adapting to a new life.  He looks physically well he seems to be enthusiastic about life, family, and work.  He told me that he was happy with his decision and is looking forward to new challenges.

Wow, what a hero!  I am still moved by his courage, perseverance, resilience, and most important, his passion for life.  Social networks do not capture the reality of our lives, they are insipid, tasteless, and a time waste.  I will always prefer to call a friend, get together for coffee or lunch, and really get to be present with them in their lives.   I realized that eleven years was too long.

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