The Positive Impact of Friends: Journey with Parkinson’s

“A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.” Lois Wyse

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart” Eleanor Roosevelt

Introduction: I have spent the past three days in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, attending a memorial service for a friend and pioneering luminary dairy microbiologist where several dear friends from graduate school were briefly reunited. And I saw several good friends from Chapel Hill before returning to South Carolina. And in between, some all-important clinician visits and check-ups (Neurologist, Internist, Opthomologist, and Dermatologist). And yes, I had the opportunity to play a round of golf with my long-time group of friends.

“There is no possession more valuable than a good and faithful friend.” Socrates

Defining True and Real Friends: These friends accept you as you are. These friends are true to themselves, and you both show your true selves to one another. These friends do their best always to protect you, regardless of the challenge. These friends always want what is best for you; your best interest and goals are essential for both parties. Ultimately, as we age, things change; however, these friends are constant and always available in times of need.

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer

The Value of Friends: We accumulate friends over a lifetime; think about it. Go back to your childhood days, and remember those friends you had. Then, move to the college age, and gather your thoughts about those friends. Then, through adulthood, count your friends.

It has never been about how many friends I had; what mattered was the importance of just a few in my lifetime. That is the reflection for me here, quality over quantity. I can be relatively quiet in a crowd but speak more freely one-on-one or in a small group of people. I am different when giving an education lecture/research presentation.

I still communicate with and occasionally see my high school best friend. In addition, I have been fortunate to have friends from graduate school. We have maintained our friendships for many decades, and routinely, we have reunion trips/vacations together (to places where others live, e.g., California, Vermont, Colorado, and North Carolina). Other friends regularly played golf together on Sunday mornings for ~14 years (until my recent move to South Carolina). However, they continue playing golf each weekend, so good for them. And over almost 40 years of working at the University, I developed several good friends.

Likely, we can each recount the stories of how we met our most important friends, whether it was work or play. The value of friendship matters, and the support given in the past up to the present day. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” Your life may change, your health may diminish, and even your world may collapse; yet, your real friends will be there to bolster your spirit and renew your trust in life.

“Life is nothing without friendship.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

The Positive Impact of Friends in the Presence of Parkinson’s: Friends have multiple roles and functions, ranging from comical to stately and from supportive to argumentative. The bottom line is that friends are there for you when needed, and real friends will repeatedly respond when asked or challenged for assistance, advice, or a supportive smile or hug.

During my 3-day trip to North Carolina, one friend said, “Watching you walk to the table as you entered the restaurant, your walking was normal as if you did not have Parkinson’s.” Another remarked, “Having watched you teach medical students and the increased stiffness of your body from that stress of education, you are sitting here much more relaxed and normal.” Finally, one friend emphasized that “Retirement looks good on you.” The feeling of joy these comments made was more than supportive. Their intention brought a reparative salve to soothe an old non-healing wound.

Everyone deserves support. Anyone with Parkinson’s needs even more support as the disorder slowly unwinds and evolves into what? We do not know our future exactly; thus, encouraging comments bolster the spirit.

My thought in driving home is that I have been blessed and honored to have these friends. They have stood by me through relationships, sickness, and health; they have steadfastly supported my goals throughout all these years. Possibly, you are thinking about some of your friends who have remained on your side all these years. Please consider saying thanks to them for their friendship; it matters they are a part of your life.

“I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.” Charles R. Swindoll

Some of my Friends:

Graduate School Friends (since 1978)
Golf Friends (since ~2010)
Work Friends (since 1986)

“Times change, people change, thoughts about good and evil change, about true and false. But what always remains fast and steady is the affection that your friends feel for you, those who always have your best interest at heart.” Margot Frank

Cover photo image by jwskks5786 from Pixabay

7 Replies to “The Positive Impact of Friends: Journey with Parkinson’s”

  1. Although you have lived far away from us we were always comforted by the fact that you were surrounded by a large loving group of students and colleagues. This piece acknowledges that fact.


  2. Frank – I am honored to be one of your friends. I too cherish our times together as partner or opponent or just friend. I miss you being here, but wish you and Susan the very best in Bluffton.

    I will never forget your joy on that Sunday morn on the practice tee when you announced “I’m so glad I found out what I have! I have Parkinson’s! Now I know what to do about it.” There is no quit in Frank Church. He gives wholly of himself to others.

    ’Till we get together again…

    Walter Bach (NEW)

    I’d rather have questions I can’t answer than answers I can’t question — Richard Feynman



    1. Thanks so much for your note Walter; it is much appreciated. And I remember that Sunday morning when I was diagnosed, still working day-by-day on managing the beast named Parkinson’s. I, too, remember all of those fun days of golf with you, Kim, and Nigel (and John and lately with Joan). We never had a dull moment and it was truly a gift to have found y’all as golf partners and friends. All the best to you, Walter, Frank


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