According to the OED . . .
A friend is a person joined by affection and intimacy to another, independently of sexual or family love.
Friendship is the state or relation of being a friend.
“Friend” is one of the rare English words whose meaning has remained consistent throughout centuries of usage. Of Germanic origin, it has existed in English since the Old English of Anglo-Saxon times (410 to 1066 C.E.).
During the Anglo-Saxon period “friend” existed as “freond” which was the present participle of the verb freon, “to love.” The verb’s root was “fri-” which meant “to like, love, or be affectionate to.” A remnant of the verb is found in our name for a weekday: Friday or “Day of Frigg” which honors the Germanic goddess of love Frigg.
Lately I have struggled with determining the meaning of a friendship that has ended. Here are the bare bones of my story: Months ago I met someone I’ll call “E.S.” Ours was a chance encounter and there was no reason to think we would see one another again.
However, it turned out that we had a few shared interests, so E.S. and I stayed in touch. When E.S. journeyed to a faraway place we communicated by letter. At some point we became more friends than acquaintances – not by formal declaration, but as a result of writing each other.
(I fancy myself to be a writer, so the process of composing letters and thoughtfully replying to the ones I receive means a lot to me. Don’t get me started on the topic of “the dying art of letter writing”!)
E.S. returned home eventually. Paradoxically, that meant we would hear from each other less often, although on one occasion I was able to help E.S. take part in an event related to one of those shared interests.
Fallible being that I am, later on I made a mistaken assumption about an issue that E.S. was dealing with. It was a misstep that convinced E.S. to end our friendship. This decision caused me anguish: not being particularly adept at making friends, I’ve only got a handful of true friendships – that doesn’t bother me – but losing a new one was hard.
What am I to make of a friendship that has crashed and burned? One for which there is no court of appeal wherein I can petition for its reestablishment?
I cannot say right now. The quotation heading this blog entry may be the best face I can put on things, although it sounds a little trite. It’s ‘way too soon to assert that all will be well in the end.