Time to say goodbye again

BlogScan_20170816 (2)I was a mother of three young children. She was the mom of three teenagers.

I was a newcomer to the Midwest. She was a bonafide Midwesterner.

I tended to be overly talkative and yelled at my kids. She choose her words carefully and was soft-spoken.

And she was my friend. Close friend. The kind of friend who would come to your rescue when needed. The kind of friend you could confide in without worry that your problem would be blabbed all over the community.  The kind of friend that felt like a sister.

Thirty-some years ago, Papa and I were new to the suburbs, fresh out of military life. He hit the ground running with his new career choice.  We purchased our very first house and started making it our home.

High on our list of priorities was finding a church where we would fit in and we succeeded, even though it was a small congregation consisting mainly of older folks. They welcomed us with open arms and we developed a solid friendship with a couple who just happened to live not far from us in the same suburb.

I don’t remember the exact moment Papa and I met my kind-hearted friend and her jovial husband, but oh, I do remember the many sweet memories we made with them.  Church gatherings, church camp outings, lots of dinners and birthday celebrations, backyard bar-be-cues, pumpkin picking, hay rides, and just visits between good friends.

My poised and lovely friend with a heart of gold and her fun-loving husband became some of our closest companions. They were abroad for a year when our second child was born, and we missed them terribly.  A happy reunion followed their return to the United States. 

They shared our joy when our third child arrived, and their teenage girls became not only our little ones’ favorite babysitters, but special to us as we loved them like family. We still share that bond today with these three special women.

My friend, a devoted pre-school teacher/director, created so many interesting and fun activities for my children.  Carving names on still green pumpkins in our friends’ garden to come back later when the pumpkins were ripe and pick one that had your very own name on it delighted our children.  They loved going to our friends’ home. 

In her always thinking of others way, my friend saved my sanity on more than one occasion. Trying to care for three rambunctious children with a traveling husband and no family nearby sometimes proved exhausting and trying for me.

So I jumped at the suggestion she made that their family keep our three young ones overnight, so Papa and I could have some grown-up time and a night on the town by ourselves. I honestly am not sure who had the better time, our children or us!

It wasn’t the only time she came to my rescue. On my birthday, she took my children to her home so I could enjoy a little peace and quiet and while they were there, she helped them bake and decorate a cake for me.

Her entire family helped us move from our small house to a bigger one in another suburb of the city. They helped me pack our belongings, watched our children (even with chicken pox at the time) while we loaded up our household goods, physically helped us move furniture and boxes, and set up the beds so we could sleep in our new house that night.

Those were just a few of the thoughtful ways my friend and her family loved us. And I loved her back so much, not just for the ways she helped me but because of her servant’s heart and her sweet and kind personality.  

She was a lifetime kind of friend and her husband was a wonderful friend to mine. I thought I would have more time to spend with her and hoped some of her endearing qualities would rub off on me. But that wasn’t the case.

Papa received a job promotion/transfer that would take us from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. Leaving our friends was extremely difficult for me because it was like leaving family.

Shortly before we boarded an airplane to our new home out West, we joined our friends for dinner in their home. They greeted us with a ‘goodbye, good luck, we’ll miss you’ sign (the above photo) and we departed with a few tears and promises to always keep in touch.

And that we did. We kept our friendship alive despite the distance. After six years in the west, Papa and I made the life-changing decision to quit the job, sell the house, and move all the way across the country to our home state to be closer to family.  And our Midwest friends graciously opened their home to us to spend the night there on our journey eastward.

We arrived at their home on a Sunday afternoon and they surprised us with a picnic with all of our old church family in attendance. What joy it was to visit with them all, and it felt like we had never left.

That was almost 20 years ago. Since then much has transpired.

A phone call shocked us to hear that my friend’s dearly loved husband suddenly and very unexpectedly passed away. My heart ached for her and her daughters and we grieved for our friend whose life was cut so short so soon after retiring from teaching. 

Our letters became once-yearly at Christmas time, but my gracious friend and I still kept in touch and with the emergence of Facebook, I and all three of my children kept contact with her three daughters.  

We even enjoyed a visit here in our home from my beloved friend a few years after her husband passed away. Again, it seemed like we had never been parted. Conversation was always so easy and so enjoyable.

She journeyed here to see us one more time with her oldest daughter and grand-daughter for the wedding of our oldest daughter almost five years ago – the last of our three weddings that year.

Seeing those friends step into our church prior to the ceremony brought tears of happiness to my eyes. I think that was one of the most beautiful characteristics of my friend – she loved making others happy.

It was delightful to introduce them to family and friends at the reception. An added gift was visiting with them the next day as well, reminiscing and just enjoying each other’s company as we always have.

You see time and distance never erases a blessed friendship. And like we do so often in life, I just expected there would be other times, other reunions, other opportunities to talk and share.  But that wasn’t to be.

My friend, my dear and special friend, recently suffered a massive stroke, and while we all prayed for her and her family, she passed from this world to the next last week. It grieves my heart that I cannot attend her memorial service this weekend to celebrate the thoughtful and loving life she lived, hug her three daughters and three grand-daughters tightly in person, and be a source of support for them like their sweet mother and grandmother was for me all those years ago.

Instead all I can do is pray for their comfort and peace, thank the Lord for the blessing that was my treasured friend, and be grateful that she is reunited with her loving husband and most importantly, face to face with our Savior.

And so, I must say “Goodbye again, my friend, for now. I will miss you. But we will meet again someday. Until then, you will always have a place in my heart and in my memories. I am a better person because you were in my life.”

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

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If I call you friend

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Me (front right) with some friends on my 13th birthday. 

Friend. It’s the weekly photo challenge theme.

And the timing of the challenge is perfect because I recently received a surprise long-distance phone call from a friend wishing me a Happy Birthday. 

My friend lives all the way across the country from me. My friend is someone I spent a lot of time with over 20 years ago. She is someone who I haven’t seen in person for about 15 years.

Time and distance separate us, but yet when I have the chance to talk with my friend, it’s like time and distance disappear. We pick right up where we last left off and away we go. There’s never a lull in conversation. Never an awkward moment. Never enough time to talk as much as we want it seems.

“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I can think aloud.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friend. How many people can I attribute that title to?

Friend. If I look on my blog stats, I have 1000 friends because so far, that’s how many people follow my blog. But a huge majority of those people are folks I’ve never met or shared any kind of conversation with online or in person.

So, even though I appreciate each and every one of those who follow my blog regularly, I can’t really call those readers my friends. What you know of me is only what I write publicly and very few of you even know my name. And what I know of you is probably much less.

When it comes to Twitter, it’s the same story. Many followers, but only a couple that I actually know. So friends? I don’t think so. Not so long ago, I deactivated my account because Twitter just seemed so senseless to me. (I know what people believe about having writer’s platforms, etc., etc., but it’s just not for me.)

Turning the social media page to Facebook, at last count, over 100 people like this blog’s fan page. Some of those are personal friends, some are not. Some are complete strangers to me. 

On my personal Facebook page, I have only 245 friends – small potatoes compared to those who have thousands of “friends.” But I purposely keep my personal Facebook page limited to people I actually know, those who have personal connections with me,  and folks from the past with whom I’ve continued to maintain a friendship. 

So if I call you friend, who are you?

Friend. Childhood friends come and go, but three of my childhood and teen years friends have always been there for me, sharing happiness and sorrow, disappointments and accomplishments.  True steadfast friendships that have endured to this day. Lifelong friends.

Friend. College friends seem like your best friends during those years because you share living spaces, new experiences, heartaches, and fun times with them. But only a couple of those friendships have stood the test of time.

Friend. During my season as a young married military wife, friends who shared the same hardships and the ups and downs of standing alongside husbands who served their country became lifelines. Some of those friendships have prevailed over the years, others have not.

Friend. In my career years, gals I worked with were my supportive and understanding friends. Ones with whom I could share frustrations with over lunch or on break or during a shopping trip. But many of those friendships have faded over time.

Friend. Then came a season of stay-at-home motherhood and I found myself in a new circle of friends. Moms like me with families and a home as our priority. These friends provided a listening ear, a helping hand, and much support since we lived so far away from family. Several of those friendships remain intact even though we are separated by distance, we connect on Facebook.

Friend. And then there were my friends of faith, particularly when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest. How precious they were to me as they helped me cultivate contentment in my circumstances, or how to be thankful in all things, or how to pray consistently and effectively for my children. Those friendships always remain special to me.

Friend. As my season of life changed yet again with a move back to our native state, friends helped sustain me through the illness of my mother, both my mother and mother-in-law’s deaths, and getting acclimated to living in a rural setting once more after so many years in suburbia.

Friend. While working for a non-profit ministry, I gained another new set of friends. Mature and spiritual friends with whom I regularly prayed. Friends who anointed and laid hands on me for healing when I faced my own cancer diagnosis. And to quote a Michael W. Smith song, “Friends are friends forever when the Lord’s the Lord of them.”

Friend. The empty nest, when the last of my three children graduated from college and moved away, literally knocked me for a loop following the death of my father.  I felt adrift in a turbulent sea without a rudder to steer by. 

I struggled with the concept of friendship during that time because those relationships I had with my children’s parents changed dramatically.  My heart ached for like-minded friends who were willing to be soul-sharing kind of friends, not just acquaintances.

That’s when I turned to blogging to pour out words which seemed trapped in my head, heart, and soul. And that’s when the Lord orchestrated another crossing of paths in the pursuit of friendship.

Friend. I never would have thought that I would find good friends online. People whom I’ve never met in person, yet are so dear to me for their encouraging words, thoughtful emails, and in one case, even handwritten letters, texts, and phone calls.  Only a handful, yet you know who you are.

Friend. Being friends requires a lot of giving of oneself. Friends require understanding. Friends must travel a two-way street.  Friends need one another. Friends are good sounding boards, cheerleaders, and sympathetic listening ears.

Much about this life is uncertain, but one thing is clear. If I call you friend, you truly are just that.

Friend.

“To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts expressed – that can make life a garden.”~ Goethe

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

A gift for Christmas

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“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” ~ Roy L. Smith 

I have this life-long friend. She’s been in my closest circle of cherished ones from way back when.

We played Barbies and a myriad of other pretend games together as children; lounged by her folks’ swimming pool and dreamed of our weddings as teenagers; were actually in each other’s weddings as young adults, and laughed and cried together as we have matured into older adults.

If I could give her the best gift ever this Christmas, I would give her a do-over of this stressful year she’s experienced all wrapped up in gold, glittering paper and tied with an enormous red fluffy bow. Because as crazy as my year has been, hers has been a doozy.

Not only has she endured surgery, chemo, and radiation in her battle against that dreaded disease – cancer – this year, she also lost her father just a few weeks ago. Her husband is still recovering himself from some orthopedic surgery.  Her grown children live hours away from her. And now, she’s hospitalized in excruciating pain from a complication that she never saw coming.

Sometimes this life on earth is just… Too. Much.  And I cry for my friend because I do understand. Often we face the proverbial straw that breaks that camel’s back, the one that breaks our will, breaks our hearts, breaks just about everything in us.  And we truly have to fight the hardest battle ever just to overcome our brokenness.

And on top of everything else, it’s Christmas. Ho. Ho. Ho. The most wonderful time of the year. Joy to the world.

Christmas, when there is so much to do in preparation. Cards to send. Gift shopping and wrapping to be done. Decorating. Baking. The list goes on….and on….and on.

And accomplishing those things are just a few of the holiday preparations that my friend truly enjoys. Christmas makes her happy.  But not this year.

This year, she lies in a hospital, a good hour and a half away from her home, in pain and fretting over all the things she hasn’t been able to do.  And yes, by her own words, having herself “a pity party.”

As her lifelong friend, I wish I could make it all better for her. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make her pain disappear but even the doctors can’t do that – they’ve cautioned her that recovery will take time.

I wish I could sprinkle magic fairy dust over her home, quite a distance from mine, and all her decorating and holiday preparations would be complete.

I wish I could say some magic words that would conjure up a Christmas elf to buy and wrap all the gifts she wants to give her family.

But I cannot. I am only human. I have no magic powers or instruments. I can’t even visit her in the hospital because the flu has infiltrated my home and I don’t want to be the bearer of bad viruses and compromise her already delicate immune system, so I must visit with her via cell phone.

So I do the only thing I can do.  I listen. I let her vent her frustrations, her sadness, her disappointment, and yes, even her anger at this latest attack on her health. I tell her through my own tears that I’m sorry, that I hate that she has to go through this time.

I tell her not to fret, not to worry about what doesn’t get accomplished in time for Christmas. I encourage her to just concentrate on getting well and being able to go home soon.

But I don’t tell her the words she doesn’t want to hear, even though they are right there on the tip of my tongue.

“Don’t tell me things will get better,” she says. “I don’t want to hear that.”

So I close my mouth and swallow down those words, those words of platitude that we so often use, when honestly, we don’t really know what else to say.

And then I do the only other thing that comes to my mind, to my heart, to my soul. I ask her if I can pray with her right here, right now on this wireless device that connects us audibly even though our hearts are and always will be connected by friendship and love.

And she says yes.

And I hope and I pray that for just those few moments of prayer, Christmas – the one without all the preparation and fuss – flourished in her heart as it did mine.

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com