Old friends. They are individuals you know well and like.
They could be one of your best, close or childhood friends.
What do they mean to you?
I am asking you this question because I had just spent the whole day with an old friend from Singapore. Let us call her Pat.
Pat was one of my colleagues at the Singapore Monitor (now defunct) in the early 1980s. We were junior journalists at the newspaper organisation back then.
We were part of a circle of journalists in Singapore; shared ideas and experiences saw some of us forging bonds of friendship between each other.
When the newspaper folded in the late Eighties, Pat and I went our separate ways.
I returned to Malaysia and resumed my career as a journalist at the newspaper organisation I was attached to before I left to go to Singapore.
Pat fell in love with an English man, got married and relocated to the United Kingdom. She came back to Singapore when her husband passed away several years ago.
Initially, we kept in touch but distance and preoccupation with our own lives disrupted the connection between us. There was a point when there was no contact at all. That lasted for several years.
We reconnected a few months ago when I found her through Facebook and hence his post.
We arranged to meet this morning in Petaling Jaya; she was here with her two children to celebrate her uncle's 80th birthday on Saturday.
There was no awkwardness in our meeting. We greeted each other like the old friends that we are and chatted away from the word go.
The time spent with Pat and her children was one of the most satisfying moments of my life.
We talked about our lives now, work, men, clothes, Singapore, the past, present and future, and the mistakes we have made, among others.
What does Pat's friendship mean to me?
I will rely on C. S. Lewis to answer my question.
He said that "friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art ... it has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival."
Survival. The word evokes images of difficulties and our battle to overcome them.
Indeed, the idiom "the survival of the fittest" encapsulates the rationale behind our fight to continue to exist on Earth.
And all other issues fade into insignificance compared with the struggle for survival.
The friends in our midst make life bearable. They are there to give us a prod, if we have given up.
Haven't you craved for a word of encouragement from a good friend? Do you know a certain someone who is always there with a sympathetic ear? When was the last time someone gave you lots of tender loving care?
Old friends in particular reassure us that the big bad world can sometimes be a nice place to live in. They keep alive our past which is necessary to understand the present and future.
Their belief in us can change the way we see ourselves and our problems.
It is possible to fix our broken hearts, move towards that promotion, go after the job we want and attain spiritual perfection.
A word of thanks to Pat and all my good friends: I am extremely grateful for the warmth of your friendship.