Pride often dictates a reaction that we regret, potentially laying dormant friendship for decades. Recently, I witnessed the reconciliation of two good friends, both mellowed with aged circumstance, as they put their immodesty aside in reconciliation.

Captain/owner of the research vessel Wahoo Steve Bielenda and underwater historian/writer Hank Keatts should be familiar names to those knowledgeable about early east coast shipwreck diving. In the 1980s, the inseparable pair spent most summers diving and enjoying life, as well as working together on famous shipwreck presentations, notably the Andrea Doria.

Then something happened, and the two were no longer on speaking terms. Both maintain that they either never knew the nature of the problem or had forgotten the source. There was no contact between the two for over thirty years.

Now in their 80s, it is easy to see the men I remember from 1985, my last year living in New York, except now they seem whole with added dimensionality. They’ve both gained a broad sense of reflection.

Hank’s life was visited by dual tragedies this past summer when, first, he barely survived a stroke, leaving him permanently incapacitated. Then, Hank’s wife, Carole—a real sweetheart of a lady, as we used to say in New York—passed away from cancer one week after diagnosis.

Steve, known for his bullheadedness, accepted the news of Hank with genuine pain and compassion. Hank agreed to speak with Steve. In an emotionally charged phone call, the two talked about past victories and foibles for almost an hour. Neither raised the topic of their falling out.

Spoken aloud or shared in a silently mutual agreement of charity, forgiveness cleanses the soul with cathartic marvel, shepherding forth a spontaneous goodwill that is beautiful to watch. Not only do the participants in forgiveness gain from this most human of exchanges. It makes us all better.

I am proud beyond words of both of these men, who I call friends.

  • Dedicated to Carole and Hank Keatts

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