Treasure each other in the recognition that
We do not know how long we shall have each other.
Joshua Loth Liebman
Several months ago, as the summer was coming to its' end, I was taking a brief solo trip out of town. It seems to me that there's nothing more perfectly suited for contemplative thinking than a lazy summer day...when the wind is blowing just enough to stir a gentle breeze across your face, the sky is as clear as Waterford Crystal, and the trees and flowers are in colorful and beautiful bloom. There's just something about a car ride in that kind of setting that frees the mind and releases the endorphins of the soul. On days like that, for just a few minutes or hours, I can almost believe that I don't have a care in the world. I suppose that's why as I drove along the highway, I started thinking about how tremendously blessed I've been to have such dear and wonderful friends in my life.
As I reminisced about specific people, both the ones who have newly entered my world and those who are life-long occupants, I began to think of the special treasures that I have gleaned from knowing each individual. I thought of Valerie, my first real "best friend" of more than 25 years and with whom I discovered and cultivated my passion for the written word; James, the big-brother-I-never-had and with whom I share an artistic fascination for the finer things in life; Debbie, the one friend over the past twenty years whose life has most closely parallel mine in almost every way imaginable; my girls Jackie, Robin, & Lisa, all 3 of whom live out-of-state and whom I go months without talking to, and yet when we do catch up, our respective conversations are as filled with as much camaraderie and closeness as if it were just yesterday that we last spoke; Twilla, the only friend I have that if we are accidentally phone-disconnected, it's okay that neither of us calls the other one back--and yet can laugh good-naturedly about it the next time we do talk-which may be days later; Stephanie, Frankie, Carol, and Adriane-- 4 great sister-friends who at various times, all patiently listened to and helped me through countless hours of pre & post-divorce high drama and multiple sagasodes; My friend Peri who, even though she was just about to walk down the aisle when I came through the door, teased me about me using "CPT" (Colored People Time) in getting to her very proper we-start-on-the-minute Jewish wedding; Billie, the friend who truly has stuck by my side closer than a natural-born sister; Eric, Bernard, Picasso, Ernie, Curtis, Antonio, Charles, Tony, and Lamar- men who have definitely shown me the healing power in platonic, and sometimes more-than-platonic, love; Christine, Brenda, Nesie, Pam, Tonya, Crystal, Sue, Bev, Dorothy, Bobbie, Michelle, Maria, Lonnie, Cheryl-all seemingly ordinary black and white women-whose lives have intersected and intertwined with my life in so many extraordinary ways.... and in the process, have left an indefectible mark on my heart.
Though I would have rather concentrated solely on the positives, I realized that there had also been negative influences that had passed through my space as well. Some of those negatives I let in while blinded by my own foolishness, and some of them tried to get in by 'whatever means necessary.' However, I know that the good has far outweighed the bad and because of that, I was and still am very appreciative of the few less-than-desirable people who came along-- because they, too, brought with them some valuable lessons in Friendship 101 for me to learn as well. So as I rode the stretch of highway on that marvelous summer day, almost before I knew it, I was both laughing and crying simultaneously. I laughed because I had so many happy memories and I cried because in thinking about the total sum of everything, I felt absolutely overwhelmed at the gratitude that filled my heart as I reflected on each individual. I know that so much of who I am today is a direct result of the many people who have become a part of the multi-layered and richly colored quilt of my life.
That's why I'm dedicating this month's column to those friends that I've personally come to treasure almost as much as I treasure breathing God's life-giving air. I deeply love and sincerely appreciate every single one-those that are listed and those that remain unnamed but are no less cherished in my heart. For it is from ALL of them that I have learned the real meaning of friendship. In their own unique way, they each have taught-and are yet teaching me---the importance of having a good sense of humor; the value of giving compassion without criticism; the pain of sharing gentle but difficult honesty; the heartache of misunderstandings, yet the joy of forgiveness & reconciliation; the happiness of finding a listening and understanding ear; and finally, the calming peace of acceptance that only the love of a true friend can bring. It is my sincerest hope and prayer that in all those ways, they have found me to be the same kind of friend to them as well.
Since life is short and each day relatively uncertain, we'd do well to remember that it's always best to let people know how we feel about them while they're alive to see, smell, touch, taste, and hear it. It is because of those who have befriended me that I'm able to give friendship to others in return. As my girl Iyanla Vanzant would say, "For this I am so very grateful...And so it is!"
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