A Lesson in Friendship
Last week I shared that my mother-in-law passed away and the feelings I had surrounding that time of sadness. On Thursday my family travelled to North Carolina to say our final good-byes to her and to spend time in grief and celebration of her life with family and friends. I have been fortunate not to have had to experience many funerals but each time I do I struggle with the finality of it all and find myself filled with “what if’s” or “I wish I had’s”. We moved my mother-in-law moved into an assisted living facility two years ago; the decision to move her there was one filled with anxiety and dread. We all knew she needed assistance; something that none of us could provide the way she needed it. My sister-in-laws searched and found the perfect place for her. It was quaint, neat, clean and filled with a loving caring staff who dedicated their time and energy to creating a positive home like environment for the residents. On our first visit to see her new place Grandma proudly showed us around and introduced us to everyone we saw. She was so excited to show us her table in the dining room; she told us that she sat in the same chair with the same ladies for every single meal. She walked us through the hallways pointing out the t.v. area, library, sunroom and the scales that she weighed herself every time she passed. On one of our trips through the halls that day she introduced us to her neighbor from across the hall. “Mrs. K” was a tiny little gray haired woman well into her 80’s with a smile that lit up the room. Grandma told us that “Mrs. K” was her best friend. “Mrs. K” agreed that they were buddies and had become pretty inseparable. Each time we visited Grandma “Mrs. K” would wave and occasionally stop by to say hello or make sure Grandma was still coming to lunch. They had become best friends.
This week while standing in the receiving line at Grandma’s visitation at the funeral home “Mrs. K” appeared pushing her walker with her daughter by her side to steady each step. As she greeted each family member she shared with us how special Grandma was to her and how she wouldn’t have missed coming to say good-bye for anything in the world. She was determined to walk (not ride in a wheel chair) the entire family line and hug each of us and pay her respects to her best friend. By the time she got to me I was in tears. This woman who had only known Grandma for a short time was truly her best friend. She shared with me that they had tea parties and would share their snacks and cookies with one another almost every afternoon. She truly loved Grandma with her whole heart and wanted us to know.
As I watched this frail little lady continue down the line and stop at the casket she reached over and touched Grandma on the cheek and quietly turned and walked away. Her farewell was simple but said more than words ever could. She had lost her best friend.
Throughout my life I have been blessed by friends who have touched my heart. I have friends from as early as first grade through high school and into my adult life. Some friends I lost contact with for many years and have only recently reconnected with them. What I have found is that the 25 plus years of disconnect seemed to fade away when we found each other again; our hearts never forgot. Ironically my newer friends have found a similar spot in my heart even though our time together so far has been shorter.
Friendships, I believe are a necessary element of life. The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.” Friendships are vital for well being, but they take time to develop and can’t be artificially created. No wonder they are at risk of being neglected.” A number of studies have highlighted the importance of friends and good relationships to health. Some have proven that socially engaged adult’s age more successfully stating that women over age 60, those who are socially engaged and visit with friends and family throughout the week are happier as they age. Friends can help you achieve your weight and fitness goals.
Encouragement and just sharing goes a long way to boosting your willpower. Friends make life more manageable in the tough times and a little sweeter in the good times. Being social boosts your immune system. Being socially engaged leads to more positive emotions, which in turn may actually boost your body’s immune system and reduce the physical signs of stress.
Fill your life with great friends that will help carry you through the tough times and celebrate with you in the good times. Whether you have one true friend or a whole bunch, know that life is meant to be lived in community surrounded by those who love us enough to stay by our side until the end just like “Mrs. K”.
I think we all need a touch point a place we can go to be inspired. Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy!