Basically your friends are not your friends for any particular reason. They are your friends for no particular reason. The job you do, the family you have, the way you vote, the major achievements and blunders of your life, your religious convictions or lack of them, are all somehow set off to one side when the two of you get together.
If you are old friends, you know all those things about each other and a lot more besides, but they are beside the point. Even if you talk about them, they are beside the point. Stripped, humanly speaking, to the bare essentials, you are yourselves the point. The usual distinctions of older-younger, richer-poorer, smarter-dumber, male-female even, cease to matter. You meet with a clean slate every time, and you meet on equal terms. Anything may come of it or nothing may. That doesn't matter either. Only the meeting matters.
Noel Butler was such a friend. Some friends are more or less replaceable with other friends. Noel was not. I last heard from him on this day exactly twenty years ago. He'd sent me a "Greetings from Childers by Night" postcard which was all black except for those words. On the back he had written, "Hope your outlook on the future is not as black as this; mine is but that's inevitable." I was then far too young and far too busy and far too full of myself to think that this was more than a funny card. Four months later, Noel was dead.
Rest in Peace, Noel! Your memory lives on at "Riverbend" and so does your card which, beautifully framed, sits on top of the mantelpiece.
As long as we live, they too will live,
for they are now a part of us,
as long as we remember them.