A friend of mine died last fall, and it got me thinking. This is one way I process, I write things out trying to make sense of them. Have you ever had someone in your life who just lights up when they see you? Feels good doesn’t it? Bill was like that. He’d light up when he saw me, pour a cup of coffee, say “hi kiddo,” sit down and just talk about anything and everything. I’m gonna miss Bill, he taught me a lot about friendship and about life.
I’m sure everyone has seen that email chain that’s gone around that says “friends for a season, a life time… etc” and listing the purpose of each. I get it about once a month or so, and now when i want it, I can’t find it. Figures.
Having moved over 20 times in my life, it wasn’t until I came to Tulsa that I really started makeing friends – that lasted more than six months, and got attached to people. I mean really attached. But then something happened, several died, and I was beside myself because I’d never had to experience that before. When you move a lot, friends ships are kind of like – fraternity rushes. You rush in, make as many surface friends and possible, but you don’t have time to get close because you know you’ll be gone again in a few months or a year. Good byes don’t hurt as much if you aren’t vested in the relationship.
I read a pretty cool interview with Reba McEntyre in one of my magazines this week and she talked about girlfriends. It was really a promo piece for her new CD “Duets” and it was more than just a promo piece if that makes sense. Reba opened up about some big losses in her life, like the time a plane carrying her crew crashed and eight people who were very close to her died. She went on to say that after that, she didn’t want to be friends with anyone anymore – it hurt to much to lose them. Somewhere in her healing she discovered that staying isolated and refusing to connect kept her from builiding memories and from growing. People do come and go in our lives, and it’s important that we build memories. It’s the memories that keep us going long after they are gone.
I liked that story a lot. four years ago our family went through too many changes and it was hard on all of us. We changed churches, our school closed down, and ten of my friends died from cancer or sudden heart attacks. My three main circles of support were suddenly, radically changed. To add insult to injury, I was deeply hurt by a relationship and I’d never really expereinced that before either, and I had no clue what to do about that. For a while there, I felt like the kiss of death woman and didnt’ want to attach to anyone ever again. It showed.
Someone tells me I have a “vulnerable” trait about me which makes me endearing? i have no idea what that means. She just smiled and said it’s not always a bad thing you know, being vulnerable. I’ll have to chew on that one for a while. After losing friends and being hurt, I’d decided “vulnerable” must be a a defect of character and I needed to get rid of it completely. My friend disagrees. Like I said, I’ll have to chew on that one for a while.
I’ve slowly and surely started making new friends and the level of friendships are all different. Some are myspace friends, people I may never meet in real life – or I may, but there is still a connection there. We share things and talk about stuff. It’s safe really. I’ve made new friends in my church who are all at different stages in life. Some of young kids, some have no kids, some have grandkids. We all learn from each other. And I’m making friends at my kids school. I don’t work outside the home anymore because of my son’s epilepsy, so finding places to meet people has been a little challenging. Volunteering opens doors though. And I”m doing that now. – I’m not a good stay at home kind of gal, I actually climb the walls. I’m a social bug, I hate being alone for too long.
I was explaining a friendship to someone this weekend. Chonda Pierce is coming to Tulsa, and I’m one of her Turbo hostesses. She has women in each city that helps promote her show and gets to help during the show sometimes. We work with her best friend Alison, and with her promoters. I was passing out fliers at my church and sitting at a table was one of my call me in the middle of the night if you need me girlfriends was sitting there, along with a say-hello-but-not-much-else friend was there too. I handed them the fliers and said “my girlfriend is coming back.” One gal knew what I was talking about, but the say hello gal wanted me to expound on that a bit. We settled on – she knows who I am and I know who she is and we talk when she is in town, and sometimes email each other – girlfriend. I drive her where she needs to be, and we get to talk mom stuff – friend – when she is here. I call that a girlfriend too.
It’s okay to have friends like that too. It’s a step up from say hello, but not quite call me in the middle of the night. But it’s still a relationship.
When I was working in a church a few years back, I made a different kind of friend. Bill was an elder at the church and he was in his 70’s or early 80’s. He’d come in once or twice a week, pour a cup of coffee and just chat with us. I looked forward to his visits. he was always happy to see me, and very warm and very kind. He’d tell me stories about WWII (he was a bomber pilot), about his kids, about golf, and about his brother in California. I’ll admit that at first, I didn’t’ know what to make of his visits, I thought perhaps he was just lonely, and maybe he was. But after a while I really looked forward to them. he was a nice man.
One day Bill showed up and just sat in the hall. It was the middle of the week, and he looked lost so one of the gals went out to ask if he was okay. He said he was meeting someone there to get the coffee made for church (they did that together on Sunday Mornings and this wasn’t Sunday). He got agitated when she told him it was the wrong day, but he went home.
Two weeks later, he did it again. this time we called his son to come get him. And just like that, my friend was gone. He never came back. Old age does that. Poor Bill had taken a detour in his memory, I think they call it dementia. On top of the dementia, he was having mini-strokes they found out and he could no longer live alone. His son moved him to an assisted living place, and I could see him if I wanted but please know, he won’t remember me. I hate getting old.
Bill died on a Sunday and his was on Wednesday. I went to say goodbye to a friend. Saying goodbye isn’t as hard when you can remember the first time you said hello and all the steps in between.
I have good memories of Bill. And it’s those good memories that keep me going. Building positive memories makes saying goodbye worth it.