Yesterday was my best friend’s birthday.
Burt Burleson and I met at Baylor some thirty-five years ago this month. He was a freshman and I was a junior. I don’t remember the exact circumstance nor can I recall our days of getting acquainted; all I remember is we have been friends ever since. From Baylor, we moved up I-35 to Southwestern Seminary, which neither of us would have survived had it not been for the other. We were housemates there and then again in Dallas where he was Youth Minister at Lake Highlands Baptist Church and I did CPE at Baylor Medical Center. We’ve done more camps and retreats and youth banquets than I can count. Yet, whatever that number, it is eclipsed by the number of nights and days we have talked and dreamed and laughed and cried and played guitar together.
In the fall of 1986, I can remember calling Burt to mark that we had been friends for a decade. The significance for me, as one who had spent his life moving, was he was the first friend I had known for ten years and known where they were for all those ten years. Today I sent him a note to say the streak is still going. Thanks to Facebook, I have found lost friends from childhood, or they have found me, but Burt has been the Friend Who Stayed and for that I am deeply grateful.
Martin Marty once wrote in a little book called Friendship, “We have friends and we are friends in order that we do not get killed.”
As I stack up years, those words ring more and more true. Though Burt is not solely responsible, I am alive because we are friends. And I am grateful.
That just feels worth saying out loud.
As Andrew Gold sang in 1978 (before “The Golden Girls”)
and when we both get older
with walking canes and hair of gray
have no fear, even though it’s hard to hear
I will stand real close and say,
thank you for being a friend