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October 31, 2011

Gifts of Friends and Friendship

The blog's current theme has helped me pause and remember ways in which friends blessed me and helped me in the face of loss. And, in some cases, it was the friends of my deceased loved one that reached out in friendship to me.  I share these memories:

The day my father died, Sally showed up on the front porch. She had a gallon of chocolate ice cream in her hands. She said, "Here." She handed me the ice cream, gave me a hug, and left. This may sound surreal to an outsider, but Sally is a longtime friend and fellow church member. Also a very cool, artistic person. Yes, the ice cream came in handy for desserts for visitors the next few days, but it was her simple showing up with something--anything--in hand that mattered. The look in her eyes. Her sharing my grief. Her own loss of her dear friend, my dad. I'll never forget it. 

On my sister's last night on earth, I stayed by her side at the hospital. In the next room was one of my sister's closest friends. Penny was willing to keep vigil with me. She loved my sister as a sister herself, but she also knew how frightened I was. I did not know how I would or could survive my sister taking her last breath, but Penny's presence kept me from feeling completely cast adrift. I am not sure that there has ever been a moment in my life when I was more grateful not to be alone. My company was a woman whom I had known for only a few weeks, but who treated me like her lifelong friend.

One lifelong friend, Laura, has appeared by phone, by email or in person, as if she had a sixth sense about when I needed to hear from her. She, my sister and I grew up together. A card would arrive from her in the mail--for no "reason"--yet it would come on a day when its message was the buoy I needed to keep from sinking. On the anniversary of my sister's funeral and my father's death, Laura called to let me know that a swarm of dragonflies had accompanied her as she watered the lawn that morning. She could not have known that a swarm of dragonflies had appeared at my house on the first anniversary of my father's death.

In the ink-dark sky of grief, these acts of friendship stand out like brilliant stars. They stay with me and remind me that death is inevitable, but these kinds of friends are not inevitable. They are never to be taken for granted, never to be forgotten. These three women--and other friends whom I will write about later-- have blessed me unreasonably, shared in my pain and hardship, and knew there was no pleasure to be found in my company in those moments. But there they were, showing me that true friendship is not so much about "company" as communion.

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