It is easy to relate to St. Augustine’s Confessions, particularly when Augustine speaks about the death of his friend (Augustine, 2001). Two parts of his recollection stood out to me. The first was the passage in which he talks about putting too much stock in a friendship and loving a friendship for friendship’s sake, rather than for any other reason. I have often had friendships and relationships which I focused on too much, to the detriment of other things which I ought to have prioritized.
As a teenager, especially, it was easy to believe that certain friendships were more important than my family life, school work or religious concerns. Even when my grandparents, who lived across the country would visit, I would often neglect them in favor of spending time with the friends who had become important to me.
Later, I regretted this, because my grandfather died much sooner than I expected. When you are young, you often expect things to go on just as they are. You do not often think of your relationships as fleeting. You think that everyone you know will be there in years to come. So while my grandparents visited with my siblings and my parents, I spent time forming bands, going to movies and gossiping with my friends. At the time, these things seemed important. My friends and I thought we were planning our futures. We dreamed of achieving fame and becoming rich. We spent as many of our waking hours as we could together, and when we were not together, we always talked over the phone – often in conference calls – pouring our hearts out to each other, discussing everything from sports to love and philosophy. Our friendships were our lives. Our summers seemed like heaven.
This feeling, though, did not last. During the last great summer, my grandfather had a stroke. My grandmother took him to the hospital. When we first heard the news, it sounded like he was going to be fine. My family planned to travel out to visit him in the next month or two. But the next day, something went wrong with his treatment and his kidneys failed. I did not have a chance to call him. He died before I could tell him how much he had meant to me. His death changed my outlook on life. It made me see how small my other interests had been and how wrong my focus had been. Today, I would give a great deal to spend more time with him. Furthermore, as Augustine points out, friendships are temporary. I do not see any of the friends whose company I felt was so important at that time today. It would have been far better for me to spend time on something more permanent than to focus all my energies on temporary friendships.
I can also relate to Augustine’s feelings about grief. Sometimes grief and tears do become overly sweet to us. After my grandfather died, I hung onto the grief of losing him for much longer than I should have. There was, I think, something comforting in the feeling of sadness. But it can be tempting to hold onto grief for too long and to cling to grief for grief itself. Sometimes I did feel that I was more caught up in the feeling of grief that I was experiencing and how the grief was affecting me than I was in mourning for those I had lost. Therefore, Augustine’s words resonated with me greatly and they have inspired me to try to avoid similar pitfalls in the future.
- Augustine. (2001, March 09). The Confessions of Saint Augustine, by Saint Augustine. Retrieved from Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3296/3296-h/3296-h.htm