It was late February of 2020. Todd, a good friend from Chicago (we sang together with the Windy City Gay Chorus for several years), was visiting Tom and me here in the Valley of the Sun.
While he was in town, we enjoyed creative conversations about books, films, and music. Visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West studio/architecture school in north Scottsdale. Hiked in the desert at Papago Park. Saw Beautiful–the musical about Carole King’s life–in Tempe.
Of course, a few weeks after Todd returned to Chicago, it felt like there was nothing beautiful to celebrate. The world shut down. Thousands died quickly. Waves of fear, disease, uncertainty, and grief inundated all of us.
Friends and families–isolated from each other–found creative ways to pass the time. Some of us wrote books that included stories about the experience. We prayed we would survive.
Now, in March 2023, many elements of our pre-Covid lives have returned thankfully. But my sense is that as a culture we Americans would prefer to pretend Covid-19 never happened, in spite of the mountain of evidence and losses that tell us otherwise.
No doubt, it will take years for all of us–no matter where we live–to recover emotionally.
Still, the good news is most of us did survive. We’re finding ways to reengage with friends and loved ones. To celebrate life. To reignite relationships and make new memories together.
On that score, Todd is returning for another visit next week. Tom and I are excited to spend time with him again. To share new and old movies with him. To discover what’s new in his life since we last hiked together three years ago.
As it happens, Todd’s 2023 visit coincides with the Phoenix Heart Walk on Saturday, March 25. He and Brad (another singing friend who I met performing with the Phoenix Gay Men’s Chorus) will walk with Tom and me.
I’m thrilled that they will both join us for a Saturday stroll in the sun to raise funds for the American Heart Association (AHA). Every dollar will help fund groundbreaking research to keep hearts beating and build longer and fuller lives.
When I told my AHA contact, Karen, that a friend from Chicago would be walking with us to raise money for the cause, she suggested I name our team. As I was jogging on the treadmill yesterday, the name Friends for Life came to me.
After all, it is friends like Todd in all circles–Arizona neighbors, Chicago friends, fellow performers here and there, family members, yoga pals, film enthusiasts, writing colleagues, professional advisors, gym buddies, etc.–who enrich my world.
Many of them (from Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Tennessee) followed my lead and have already made donations to the Phoenix Heart Walk.
I am eternally grateful for their support, because–as you know if you follow my blog–heart disease is personal for me. I am walking on March 25th as a tribute to my mother and father, who died of heart-related illnesses and, symbolically, to thank the doctors and nurses who saved my life and helped me recover in 2017 after I suffered a heart attack on the way west with Tom.
Please click on the link below and support this worthy cause. Every little bit helps. Because, unfortunately, heart disease is universal. It remains the number one killer in our nation.
Yet it is the love extended from our hearts … and the friendships formed with people all across the country (and with those of you all around the world who have bonded with me through this page) … that make life so meaningful.
Whether you decide to contribute or not, remember this: you can make a difference by giving your time, talent, and money to the people and causes you are most passionate about.
4 thoughts on “Friends for Life”
A beautifully written piece, Mark. I’m looking forward to the heart walk!
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Me too, Tom. Thank you for all your support, which you provide in so many ways!!
I will be thinking of the 4 of you walking on Sat. while I am at the Dragon boat races with my family. You and Tom are sure my dear friends for Life. I will be making another donation to this great cause in the future.
Love and hugs, Carol
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Thank you for your constant support, Carol! Yes, we are most definitely Friends for Life.