I bought her the friendship necklaces even though we were turning 40something and weren't still in junior high. It was a silly, feeble attempt to convey my love. I gave her the part that said “Best” and kept the part that said “Friend”. Sometimes now we sign cards and emails with those labels, but mostly we use our initials. It's impossible to convey how much she means to me. There we were, two wounded-on-the-battle-field-of-friendship souls, who found each other rather late in life.
We met going to a retreat at our church. They arranged the carpool for us, and the church secretary informed me that she'd be picking me up. “She lives right around the corner from you.” That's strange, I thought, she lives right here. Best was not really a stranger, you see. I knew of her. Her daughter had assisted me in the nursery. She had attended my parent's small group progressive dinners. She'd even led the worship team at church and done a wonderful job of dedicating “How Great Thou Art” when our prayed-for-for-three-years-YellowBoy was dedicated. But we'd never spoken in person. But you know that “click” thing? As soon as we did, we clicked.
I'm no fashion girl. At ALL. I'm a uniform girl. For many years I wore only white t-shirts and jeans. Seriously. Then I switched to black t-shirts. I'm now proud to say that I've come a long way. I have multiple colors of t-shirts to go with my jeans. I was going on this “by invite only” brainstorming-how-do-we-start-a-women's-ministries-team at our church retreat and I had NO idea what to wear. I know it's not a big deal, but I had been really wound up about what to wear, had even considered not going because of it. She showed up in casual clothes. What a relief. I could like her. On the way up the mountain, the conversation in the car among the four passengers turned to friendship. I had just barely survived a brutal, abusive friendship with yet another “project” friend, and I was hurting. The conversation left her in tears. I wondered why. Did she have friendship hurts of her own?
Prior to this, I'd always had what I call project friends. You know, those people who need something. Need you. They're always in a crisis. They make you feel important and useful when you help them. But they're tiring. Draining. I think I get the project friend thing from my mother. She has the gift of mercy, and is always helping people. There's nothing wrong with that, but I've come to realize the hard way that you can't and shouldn't have these people as your best friend. It's up to Jesus to save people. Not me. I may be Type A, choleric, go get 'em, but I ain't no savior. So I'd met this wonderful person, but I was reluctant. Ok, scared silly.
Throughout the retreat I found myself buddied up with her, and then I'd withdraw. I just really wasn't ready to go there again. Too many hurts. So we danced around each other for several months. I had foot surgery. She brought me dinner. Her dog died, I sent her a card and flowers and helped bury him. But sometimes you just have to take a risk to have something great. So one day I picked some lilacs from my back yard and took them to her. Wrote a card asking to be friends. She accepted. And we've been “best” and “friend” ever since. (And we laughed hysterically later when I discovered that her entire back yard is lilacs. She sure didn't need mine, but it's the thought that counts.)
It's now been nine years. We've supported each other through some major crises. And laughed through some wonderful times. We vacationed together as families, and the two of us have managed to sneak away without the families for our annual birthday trip. Yes, we share a birthday – isn't that amazing? She's taken her vacation to nurse me through three more surgeries, and has been by my side now through this horrid whooping cough. She's called me in the middle of the night to take care of her son while she took her daughter to the emergency room. We're “through thick and thin” friends. There aren't many people who get to enjoy this kind of friendship. I'm blessed to be one of them.