Two of my closest friends are named Felix and Fabio. I talk to them often when I’m in a bind, but they’re slow to respond. Both of them died over a decade ago, which still rubs me the wrong way. There should be an edict that proclaims nobody who makes me chuckle, who provides me wisdom in tiny chunks and who always thinks the right answers are inside me should be allowed to go off and get sick and expire.

I’m scratching my head as to why I keep thinking about these two guys. After all, I’m blessed with a number of great friends among the living. Why can’t I substitute a couple of them for Felix and Fabio? After all, it’s not like their greatness in friendship was based on their unique first names.

Perhaps it’s because both Felix and Fabio were in my life during periods of dramatic change. Felix showed up shortly after I had flunked out of a university. I drank too much. I lacked confidence. Felix took the time to empathetically listen when what I said made little sense. He was patient and did not judge or criticize me. Felix used humor and storytelling to reflect an image of the person I wished to become. I used to wonder how he had all that time to spend just on me. It wasn’t until years after his death that I found out Felix had performed the same loving feats for hundreds of college students.

Fabio caught me years later when I was on a roll. He was a business success in all things he touched. I worked for Fabio and he always challenged me to do better. Fabio was a stickler in fact-gathering and making commitments. I can still hear him say, “Duffy (my middle name), go out and get dirty with all the facts.” When I got stuck, Fabio would promise me others had solved the same challenge I was facing. “Seek help, Duffy, seek help. Ask nicely, and people will consider it an honor to share their wisdom, even their secrets.”

Fabio also had a mantra: if you believe you can do it, you can. “Duffy, it starts here,” he would say as he stuck his bony finger in my chest. With a love for each other and a belief in our corporate mission, Fabio and I were able to make a positive mark in a challenging industry.

Today, I have a problem, so I’m going to have a chat with Felix and Fabio. They may be slow to respond these days, but somehow, I get a sense that they’ve already stuck the answer deep inside me.