The most awkward membrane in the life of a journalist is the border between source and friend. Richard Holbrooke and I crossed that border more than 20 years ago; we’ve known each other for more than 30. He has been an extraordinary mentor and an even better friend, not just to me, but also to my son, Chris, whose foreign service career Richard has championed. He is, as you may have read, critically ill right now, recovering from surgery at George Washington University hospital. This is unimaginable to me. Holbrooke has always seemed indestructible–and indefagitable, a pure force of nature. I am certain, given his relentless disposition, that he is fighting this as hard as he can and that he will prevail. My thoughts and prayers are, of course, with his wife Kati, his children and step-children. His illness is a tremendous loss to American diplomacy, at a crucial moment in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But for those of us who are his friends, Richard’s–brief, I hope–absence from our lives is utterly devastating. I am praying he will negotiate his way back to full strength; after Milosevic and Karzai, how tough an opponent can a mere aorta be?