“Carry My Coffin” Friends

Husband is a wonderful man who has a few passions that he doggedly pursues.

He loves all things wood.

His occupation involves working with wood as he builds. He built our house from the ground up. We have baseboards and door frames that catch the eye—beautiful works of wood. This summer, he and I created a barn wood wall in our place. It’s beautiful. When we go to craft shows, he stalls out at the wood booths, admiring the grain of the wood and the handiwork of the craftsman.

I really like how the wood wall turned out!

He also loves hanging out and enjoying people. He loves his friends.

Husband goes to breakfast with the guys every Friday morning. Half a dozen guys have a weekly breakfast. Whoever isn’t on a business trip or vacation shows up for eggs and toast at Smitty’s. It’s rare they can all make it on a single Friday. But some of them are there, every week. They’ve been doing this for over 15 years now.


A couple of weekends ago, these two passions—wood and friends—collided in the best of ways. One of the men from Friday breakfast invited them all for a 2 day cottage build in the bush. This was Husband’s chance to put up walls and roof trusses with some of his favorite people!

K. was gathering his people like they used to with an old time barn raising.

In addition to several of the Friday breakfast guys, an additional friend showed up for the build. He didn’t know the other guys. K. introduced Husband and the other Friday breakfast guys by name to the new fellow and then said to this to him:

“These guys will be my pallbearers at my funeral someday.”

An odd way to introduce someone isn’t it?

But beautiful, I think. He knows who has been with him through thick and thin in life. The men at Friday breakfast have carried each other by their constant presence in each other’s lives. K is also planning that will carry him in a wood box, someday, one last time.

I think K is onto something.

In a world where we have dozens of people in our phone’s contact list, hundreds of Facebook friends, and thousands of Instagram followers—we need about 6 to carry our coffin.

He’s thought about this.

I’m thinking we need about that many to carry us through life.


I went to a workshop on addictions last week. The closing speaker, journalist Johann Hari, related a alarming statistic. Years ago, when you asked the average American how many people they could call on in a crisis, the number most often mentioned was 5. When this question was repeated very recently, the number now most often stated was 0.

Zero.

Immediately, my cynical and smug self thought to myself: “Well, this is a British guy who speaks all over the world spouting a fact about America. He doesn’t know that we are Canadian. Our the numbers would be different—we’d be better.”

And his next sentence was this: “The only 2 countries that had poorer responses to this question were Canada and Iceland.”

Ouch.

Many Canadians don’t have anybody to carry them in life, never mind in death.


The guys that meet for Friday breakfast are old growth friends. They have weaved their roots in and amongst each other. They have just put the time in with each other. Often they just talk about cars and vacations and the Bombers and the Jets. Sometimes they talk about challenges of business or the stresses of a job hunt. Other times they talk about struggles and joys of the heart—matters of faith and turmoil and painful situations which they are wrestling. Tender moments not often uttered between guys.

They’ve put the time in with the oodles of ordinary moments so when the time comes, they can utter sacred and raw truth with each other. When one of them is in a time of heaviness, they have the relationship equity to hold the tough stuff .

These guys talk about what it makes sense to talk about. Ordinary stuff ordinarily. But when life struggle happens to one of the guys, they will talk about it, because, well—Friday.

These guys heard about when Husband’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. They chatted with him on Fridays as she was terminal. Friday came after her memorial service and he was there. Friday breakfasts continued as he was freshly dealing with her death. Husband showed up, sleepy from restless night, all cried out—and they were there. Because it was Friday.

Husband didn’t need to find support for his grief—because he already had support for his life.

Months after her death, they noticed he was still grieving, but he also had a little pep in his step. And he told them about how he and I were hanging out—and he invited them into his excitement over our relationship. He also invited their feedback about dating while still a fairly new widow. They had long ago earned the right to tell him if they thought he was being impulsive or foolish. He trusted their love for him to say hard things. And he loved the green light they gave him.


I’m so grateful that Husband has the guys from Friday breakfast in his life—that they have each other. In a world where too often, people say they have no one—he’s got these guys to call on in a crisis. But only because of the 100’s of hours they’ve logged in on ordinary Fridays talking about ordinary things.

We are wired for connection

We do better in forests than lone trees on a plain. Having people there for you when you really need them means putting the time in with each other over the years. Ordinary times of repeated contact. Hanging out—visiting, playing games, being in the same space. Average time that isn’t hilarious or mind-blowing—just routine. A few people, repeatedly, over time. Weaving roots in and amongst each other—so when the winds blow and the tempests swirl around, the roots already in place support and hold the tree secure.

Wood and trees and relationships–what the sequoias taught me about connection

Husband likes the forest of humanity, just as much as he likes the opportunity to craft beautiful things out of wood. The old growth trees of friendship need careful conservation to maintain the ecology of our souls.


Of course, the guys from Friday breakfast all came to our wedding. They showed up to support him—and us.

And some day, they will all come to his funeral.

They will carry him home, one last time.

Jon Katz quote about friendship: hang in, stay connected, fight for them. Don't walk away don't be distracted

3 Comments

  • Beverly Wood

    Wow! Very powerful!!

  • Philip Giles

    Carolyn this touched me in a way unlike anything I’ve read in 30 years. It’s so true, so real, and so compelling of a call to action.

    Thank you.

    • Carolyn Klassen

      Wow, Philip…thanx so much for letting me know. We need to start a wave, one person at a time, of people connecting with others…the web starts with one or two people reaching out and the others feeling the value of slow, deep friendship, and they spread it and so on and so on.

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