We are at Dan and Laura’s wedding, standing in a semi-circle around the bar, preparing to throw back a shot that will be accompanied by a toast that we have been saying since before we were 21 and have subsequently said at one another’s weddings over the years. We all start in unison, Here’s to you. Here’s to me . . .
Nearly twenty years earlier, just weeks after high school graduation, this group of friends and I stood shoulder to shoulder beside a grave and cried for a friend taken too soon. A few months later we went our separate ways, unsure of ourselves and unsure where life would lead us. The loss of our friend cemented our bond and we would gather on holidays and summers to celebrate his life and the joy of being young.
Over the twenty plus years we’ve known one another, some of us have moved away, we’ve all changed, we’ve celebrated birthdays and weddings, consoled each other over breakups and deaths, helped each other move, fought, not talked for months at a time, and held onto the traditions we created. My brother told me once that he would rather say that he had a handful of really good friends he respected and trusted completely than to say that he had a lot of friends. This is something I have tried to keep in mind over the years and something that I hope to instill in the boys. Not only that their friends should respect and support them but that they should do the same with their friends.
Our voices rise as we finish the toast: . . . best of friends we’ll always be.