Thursday, March 5, 2020

What I've Been Reading: Friendship, by Lydia Denworth

What I've Been Reading
Friendship: The Evolution, Biology and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond by Lydia Denworth
By Melinda Gustafson Gervasi, March 2020

But for the persistence of a close friend, the client would have died.  That was the take-away from a client meeting I had a year or so ago.  Like many people, the client was older, single and lived alone.  Contrary to the client's normal ways, a Saturday evening dinner was canceled because the client was under the weather.

The next morning the client called in sick to teach Sunday School, and upon hearing this news the client's astute and caring friend new something was amiss and showed up at the client's door.  Visibly disoriented, the client's friend knew medical attention was needed.  Refusing the astute friend to call 911, the client agreed to be driven to the ER.  And then the client's memory fades to black. Afterwards the ER doctor told the client "had you stayed at home one hour longer, you would be dead."  Septic shock nearly killed my client.  A friendship saved a life.

Today I finished reading Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond by Lydia Denworth. Her book pulled this memory from the back of my mind to the forefront.  As an estate planning and probate attorney I spend my days preparing client documents related to illness and death.  And I see the strain on faces when I ask who will be your health care agent? Who will be your backup?  So many people have no obvious answer, and the stress is visible.

Denworth's book is heavy on the hard science behind friendship, however, it is worth pushing through if you are more of a social policy student like myself.  Sprinkled throughout the book are the personal stories that bring the science to life, at least for me.  From birth to retirement age (and beyond), Denworth discuss how friendships are formed, and the benefits they provide.  My take-away from this book is that a power of attorney for health care is important, forming the bonds to know who to name is critical.  The more "isolated" an individual feels, the greater the risk of illness.  Denworth states "those who answered that they had five or fewer interactions per month with close friends and family were considered isolated".  Meaning mortality risk was increased.

My only criticism of the book is that it was a bit lite on the how of friendship.  She touches on the role of co-workers, faith-based organizations, community groups, and a group of friends and family.  I would have enjoyed a bit more discussion, and suggestion, on how to build the critical face-to-face time into our busy lives.  I can say her book influenced me.  While reading this week my youngest asked for a sleepover on Friday night with 2 friends.  My first thought was "no, we have a busy weekend, yada yada yada."  Thinking about Denworth's discussion of her children's friends I went against my instinct and not only said "sure", but also invited a friend of my son's to stay over as well.  So our house will be filled with 5 children's voices Friday night.  And when they have trouble settling down and not talking, I'll remind myself that they are forging critical friendship bonds, a lifelong need.

Thank you for reading.  As always, a blog is intended to spark thought and discussion.  It is not legal advice, nor should it be taken as legal advice.  Please consult an attorney in your state of residence for advice specific to your situation.  

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