Friendships have to be cultivated

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This and That

I was visiting with a woman who had just lost a good friend who had been very ill. The last few months she had been in and out of the hospital.

Through her choked voice she said, “We had been praying for her to go home.”

But it is still so very hard to lose people you care about. I have always liked the line, “Friends are the family we choose.”

There are so many instances when friends, whether it is men or women, become closer than brothers and sisters. We love family, but we would all admit sometimes we love through gritted teeth. Family is connected by blood, but with a friend there is more invested because we choose or are chosen around things we share and you have to make a real commitment to make it work.

As I have lived in Glendive for almost 65 years, I have watched women whose children grew up together, who worked in the same office, church or volunteer organizations or who were drawn together because of a love of flowers or books or Bridge or quilting. Those shared passions are what made the difference. Men hunt or fish together or have coffee groups some of which have met for many years, always at 7 a.m. for breakfast at a particular restaurant. Sometimes they rarely speak but watching body language you can pick up on the friendship that spans years.

From those meetings, we often move into conversations and soon we are sharing each other’s sorrows and joys.

One dear lady I knew was in her upper 90s. She had a friend who called her every night for years and years. They had shared important times together in their youth and their friendship was a treasure beyond price. The lady I knew died before her friend and I really did think about this friend looking at the telephone each evening and knowing there was no one on the line to answer when she called.

Our earliest beginnings are shaped by friendships. Friends come and go as life changes, but there are always those few who remain. When you see them there is a love that just reaches out and bypasses all our human failings, all the time that has passed us by.

To lose a friend is to lose a host of shared memories. The voice on the phone that is always ready to hear what you have to say, no matter how trivial, is now silent. When death comes, family members are devastated, but there are also friends left behind who share the ache of the empty chair.

I remember one lady I really cared for who lived to be almost 100. She once told me with some disgust, “All my friends have left me.” And my aunt who lived to be 100 said, “No one remembers what I remember.” She was referring to those who were 80 and 90 years old.

One by one family and friends slip away from us until it is our turn. Death is one of the most difficult chapters in life, but knowing death is the end result perhaps makes us love with greater urgency.

Friendships have to be cultivated. My mother used to remind me, “To have friends you have to be a friend.” That requires being available, being genuine, being a listener. We need to cherish our friendships and tell people more often that we love them. My family is spread far and wide, so my friends mean more to me than even they can imagine. To love and to be loved at any age is the greatest of blessings.

Avis Anderson is a retired pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Glendive. Her online blog can be found at www.prairienewdays.com.

My family is spread far and wide, so my friends mean more to me than even they can imagine.

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