Driving alongside a very low reservoir en route to the Santa Cruz area last Thursday, I thought of the four college girlfriends with whom I would spend the next few days.
Judy, a tall, striking brunette (now stunning white) was one of the popular crowd. She always had an answer for those who teased her, and the boys loved being around her. Fun, full of confidence, her lovely soprano voice added much to both the college choir and small groups.
Shirley, a lovely Canadian whose family had just moved to Fresno, had another beautiful soprano voice and developed deep friendships with her servant’s heart, often using gifts of hospitality she learned at her mother’s side.
MarJean, a beautiful brunette with a soaring soprano, had also lived part-time in Canada. Jeannie was quiet, pursuing art, music, and deepening her walk with God. She, like me, is a writer. She is now also a beautiful white-haired woman.
The four of us sang together, usually three at a time – alternating voices and parts according to the song and our strengths.
I didn’t get to know Marilyn as well during college. A pretty blonde, she fell in love in our freshman year and married Don after our sophomore year. I still remember the “candlelighting” ceremony when Marilyn announced her engagement to the women’s dorm. But how I’ve learned to appreciate her love and care for her family and her gifts of hospitality!
I lived in Canada until my ninth year, when we moved to California. At Fresno Pacific, Shirley, MarJean and I learned our birthdates, all the same year, are within three days of each other – September 25, 26 and 27. Judy, Shirley and MarJean lived mostly off campus, since their families were in Fresno. But the deep conversations we shared about faith, challenges in our lives, the laughter that rang out when we were together, were gifts that have lasted over fifty years now.
We used to think 73 was old. How perceptions change as we grow and learn that the depth of friendship, faith, and laughter continues!
What rich memories we share. Four married men they met at Pacific. I graduated without an “MRS” degree and waited another fourteen years to marry.
But those gifts didn’t stop after graduation.
Our lives continued to intertwine over the years, as we lost husbands to death or divorce. Several have gone through significant physical challenges themselves, or with much-loved family members. We’ve earned a few more wrinkles, some parts replacements, and some changes in hair color.
So this weekend, just after the last of our 73rd birthdays, we gathered at the lovely beach home of one of our number. We laughed, cried together, shopped (note the “Husband Day Care Center” in the Capitola shopping district), and talked nonstop ’til the wee hours both nights we were together. We encouraged each other and enjoyed the long-time friendships which have woven in and out of our lives over these 50-plus years.
So I’ve been thinking about friendship, and its importance in our lives. I’ve had several precious friendships, these and several others, for decades. Newer friends add joy to my life. Friends grace us in many ways.
- With shared friendship, laughter, and tears through the stages of life–from single to marrieds, to widowed or re-single, to remarriage; children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews.
- With hearts and ears that listen and don’t try to fix us. Job’s “friends” tried to fix him and God rebuked them (Job 42:7). They could have just sat in the dust and mourned his losses with him without judging him. Shirley was the first person to whom I told the whole story of my first husband’s last day on earth. She listened, voiced sympathetic sounds, but didn’t try to fix me. I felt ‘heard’, and that was precious.
- With honest feedback and sometimes, correction. “An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.” Prov 24:26 NLT
- With forgiveness when they’ve seen us at our worst, and encouragement when we’re doing well. “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9, NLT
- With calls or visits in times of crisis, from marital trouble, to death, illness, or family crises.
- With the freedom to hang out even when we are numb and disengaged because of our own pain–and to let us be right where we are at the moment.
- With the support we feel because of their loving friendship.
I’ve been blessed with two terrific husbands. But someone once said that most women will have their girlfriends longer than their husbands. I’ve known these four women longer than either husband!
A writer younger than I saw a group of 50-ish women laughing together, and commented on their obvious bond. In an article in the Huffington Post,relates that one of the women told her:
“’Don’t ever lose touch with your girlfriends, sweetheart. The older you get, the more you’ll need them.’
Kampakis continues: “The women in the elevator that day were spot on. And now when I see a group like them having fun, I realize the laughter is only part of the story, what comes after the complicated grown-up stuff. And while we certainly need the wonderful men in our lives, for they play a crucial role, too, men simply aren’t designed to understand us like one of our own.
“Sometimes it takes another woman to intuitively recognize what needs to be done — then do it. Or to sense what needs to be said — then say it. Or to take the thoughts and emotions we don’t voice — and know what to make of them.
“Having great friends is largely a matter of being a great friend … girlfriends matter in good times and bad, laughter and tears, and through the highs and lows that reveal who’s with us for the long haul, and who’s willing to share in our suffering so that one day, when we’re laughing again on the beach, there will be a history that makes the laughter sound richer and stirs the curiosity of anyone in earshot.”
The laughter and conversations my girlfriends and I shared this weekend is richer because of the history we’ve walked through together.
What has made your best friendships rich? Are there friends you need to forgive? I’ve had to forgive and be forgiven; and the friendships that have remained are richer for having gone through the fire and persevered.
Friendships. Important? Critical, even? YES.
“Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.”Proverbs 18:24