Friendship in the Valley of the Shadow

Via David Mills, here is a remarkable essay that touches on tons of themes we’ve covered over the past few years on this blog. The author is Matthew Teague, and the title of the Esquire magazine piece is simply “The Friend.”

When Teague’s wife Nicole was diagnosed, at age 34, with ovarian cancer that had metastasized to her stomach, the couple’s friend Dane Faucheux left his hometown, his apartment, his own friends, and his girlfriend to move in with them and help see them through the nightmare.

There is so much to appreciate in this raw, unsparing piece, but what stood out to me most were the places where the author reflects on the sheer mystery of why and how someone who’s made no vows, has no blood ties, and has nothing material to gain from the relationship decides to commit to it nevertheless. “I had married into this situation,” Teague writes, “but how had [Dane] gotten here? Love is not a big-enough word.”

Although Teague’s piece is a meditation on the death of his wife Nicole, not Dane his friend, this essay may well be a prime instance of what Eve Tushnet has called “the death-haunted art of friendship.” Teague is paying tribute to Dane in the awful wake of cancer, and what he’s describing is an enormous instance of self-sacrifice. “It may help,” Eve says, when we are trying to understand friendship specifically as a vocation, “to ponder the humiliations of caring for vomiting, querulous, or bedridden friends, and the humiliation of being cared for by a friend when we’re in that state ourselves, as part of the cross borne by those whose love is poured out in friendship.”

If that’s what you want to ponder, I would really urge you to read Teague’s essay. It is brutal and beautiful.

One thought on “Friendship in the Valley of the Shadow

  1. Wes, your post couldn’t have been better timed. Two days ago, I observed the fourth anniversary of my wife’s brutal death to cancer. Teague’s story mirrors my own in so many ways; I could have written it myself. My children and I could not have survived the ordeal without friends who moved in, took charge and cared for our family as we walked through the valley of the shadow of death. They loved us then; they love us now, and I will be forever grateful.

    On a further note, I’d also like to say that I am a gay Christian man who was in a mixed-orientation marriage. Now that my wife is gone, I am charting a new course in celibacy. Your recent book has been a huge inspiration for me and has given me motivation and direction as I pursue “spiritual friendships”. I applaud your courage in sharing your story with our community. May God continue to bless and direct your steps.

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