The Gift of Friendship

By on August 17, 2013

By Nancie Carmichael –

My mother-in-law, Betty, is 91 and lives near us in an adult foster home. Sadly, dementia is stealing the twinkle and feisty spirit from her blue eyes. Most days she sits with three other ladies, idly watching a cooking or nature show on television. Sometimes it takes her awhile to remember us, although she still lights up when she sees her children. She spent most of her years in California, absorbed with family, work, and church. Her dearest friend, Lu, now also lives in our area as she moved here to be near her daughter.

Lu still lives alone, drives and occasionally visits her old friend Betty, but it’s painful as Betty can’t visit with her as she did in the past. Betty’s husband Harold, was a groomsman for Lu’s husband, Wes. They go back that far, nearly 70 years, raising their families together; going to the same church; sharing recipes, outdoor activities and countless lunches and dinners. Betty and Lu laughed together, cried together, and shared confidences. Now Betty and Lu are both widows.

Years ago, when Betty was still “Betty” she talked to me often about her friends Lu; Ruth; Dorothy; Mary Ellen. She told me, “We have bawled our eyes out together. Talked for hours. Prayed. And Lu is my dearest friend. She’s like a sister to me.” These women didn’t have therapists or life coaches. They had each other. It’s true: “The best mirror is an old friend.”[1]

Friendship is not something I have always prioritized, and I’ve too often taken them for granted as I was busy with family and deadlines. But now, I have grown to treasure and value my friends, old and new. I confess I do enjoy keeping up with friends  old and new, through social media. But I’m grateful to belong to a prayer circle of praying sisters as we meet Tuesday mornings. We have been together through children’s graduations, weddings, menopause, and now it seems our prayers have a lot to do with grandchildren and health issues! But it’s taken years of commitment to get together; to keep confidence as we laugh and cry together, share prayer needs and recipes and outreaches. Friendship takes time and commitment.

I’ve also learned it takes risk. The close friends I have are friends who were vulnerable with me and let me into their lives. Trusted me with their doubts, fears and asked for prayer. They were honest with me; and have taught me, the stoic Swedish woman, to in turn to be more open and honest.

Betty’s daughter, Char, comes occasionally to Oregon and goes to great lengths to get Betty out, engaged in life. Char e-mailed me: “If we get Mom to Sisters, can you bring Lu and we will meet for lunch?”

I paid a visit to Betty and she stared at me awhile, trying to figure out who I was. When I told her I was married to her son Bill, she giggled. It all connected. I reminded her of Lu, and I asked, “How would you like to have lunch with Lu?”

Suddenly I heard her old voice again—her assertive, strong voice. “That would be good,” she said, quite emphatically.

So we made it happen. Char, her husband Bob, along with my other sister-in-law, Carol, got Betty loaded up, walker and all. I picked up Lu in Sisters and we met at a restaurant that was easy to “roll into.”

Betty and Lu sat across from one another, sharing a chicken sandwich. Betty had a very pleased look on her face, although she didn’t say much. She and Lu smiled at one another. I thought of all the lunches they had had in the past. Now there was nothing left to say, but the smiles were still there.

My mother-in-law has taught me many things: the priority of family, but she also has shown me the importance of friendship, of developing and maintaining friendships—other women we do life with. It’s been said that “Friendship is the relationship we need to help us through our other relationships.”  Betty also had many other friends, and continued to reach out to them, to make dates with them, to include them. Betty’s husband, Harold, was comfortable mostly with family. It was Betty who made the friendships happen.

In our crazy-busy world, how desperately we need friends. Not just FB friends, but friends who know us, and care. And the way to get friends: Be one. A wise man wrote, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.”[2]

I just received a thank you note from Lu. She wrote, “Thank you for a bright spot, for making my day, having lunch with all of you. I was so happy to see Betty again, but I guess our ‘talking’ visits are over until we get to heaven. Love, Lu.”

No, Lu—thank you for reminding me not to miss to miss the face-to-face treasure of life: Friendship.

 

Nancie Carmichael is a speaker and author of several books, including, “Lord, Bless My Child” (with her husband, Bill), “Selah—Time to Stop, Think, and Step into Your Future”, “Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning”.

Contact her at [email protected] and visit her website, nanciecarmichael.com


[1] George Herbert, 1593-1633

[2] Proverbs 18:24

Nancie Carmichael

About Nancie Carmichael

Nancie Carmichael and her husband Bill have been involved with the writing and publishing field for many years as they published Virtue Magazine and Christian Parenting Magazine. They now own a book publishing company, Deep River Books. Nancie and Bill have written several books together including: Lord, Bless My Child; and Seven Habits of a Healthy Home. Nancie has written: Your life, God’s Home; Desperate for God: How He Meet Us When We Pray; The Comforting Presence of God; Selah: Time to Stop, Think, and Step into your Future; and her latest book, Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning. Bill and Nancie make their home in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and are parents to five married children and grandparents to ten. Nancie received her Master’s of Spiritual Formation from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2012, and in 2005, received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Western Baptist College. Website: nanciecarmichael.com

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The Gift of Friendship