The lasting effect of friends

John Donne wrote centuries ago “No man is an island.” Sometimes I think we may run our lives in a fashion that we think we are an island.

If we are blessed, we surround ourselves with family, friends, acquaintances, but are they really part of us and we a part of them? There are those who seldom find their way from their self-exile on their personal island to actually share with others a sunset, a walk on the beach or watching a kite bounce in the sea breeze.

In the mirror sometimes I see the man looking back at me and wonder if he ever realized where he would be today. If the choices he made would add to the sands of an island exile or build bridges connecting him to the piece of continent making him part of the main, as Donne described. Have I broadened the world of the little boy that once stood there in the mirror or have I simply augmented his isolation.

Sometimes in life though moments occur, things are said, news arrives that reminds us solidly, that Donne left an indelible footprint in the sand with his premise that no man is an island. No matter how isolated we may choose to become in life, in soul, in mind, we are connected.

In years past it was by letter and phone calls, today our own private islands are equipped with a umbilical cord connecting us to the internet. As I sit at my computer screen, I can check the status of “Friends” on numerous websites and stay connected to see what is happening. I can find out the latest news without even carrying on a conversation because it is all there to see in bits and bytes.

Does that make my island more connected or less connected? I can sustain an illusion of being connected to hundreds of people now where before it was maybe a few dozen on Sunday at church or at musical events.

In recent days, I saw where this new technology helps me stay connected. While reviewing the myriad of sites where I stay connected, I found a note from a childhood friend desiring to right some perceived wrongs and wipe the slate clean. That served as a wonderful bridge re-establishing connection.

Within the same day, sadly, I found myself looking at a photo that drained the sands of happiness from my heart as I realized a good acting friend was called home by a heart attack back in August. I had missed the news completely.

He was a man who was a good father, good husband and a loyal friend – Francesco Quinn. I hope you recognize the name, not just because he was a famous son of a famous father – Anthony Quinn, but also because he was a good actor and more than that a good man.

I came to know him when he guest starred as “Ramon Salazar” on our show “In the Heat of the Night” two decades ago. We began a friendship, which did not come and go with the end of the shoot as so many seem to do. In our visits we talked about our dreams and hopes for career and life. Though he was born in Rome, Italy, I remember one lunch that found us looking at our family roots in Ireland.

Many years ago I sat in a Los Angeles restaurant with he and his fiancé as they ironed out plans for their coming nuptials.

His breakout role was in Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” and he even acted with his father in films such as “The Old Man and the Sea.”