As Birgitta readies for university life, she and I have talked about the friendships awaiting her, some she will treasure for life. Although she’s already made many friends, some very special ones are in her immediate future.
This week one of my own lifelong friends visited me, a “girl” I met during junior year in college whom I’ve loved ever since. Because she is one of my Widow Warriors, she gives good counsel and lavishes encouragement on my adjustment to being without Nate.
Carole lost her husband to cancer 14 years ago, after 26 years of marriage and seven children, three natural-born and four adopted. In addition to fostering 65 other children, she teaches crochet classes for adults, sings in her church choir and enjoys having her daughter’s family live with her – nine people in a 1200 square foot house.
Carole and I are close in age, sharing in senior moments and decreasing in physical stamina at the same time. Despite our living 800 miles apart with only rare visits, our friendship seamlessly picks up where it left off and never runs out of talking points.
Years ago when we got together with mobs of young children, Carole and I would begin a conversation that continued throughout the visit, whether it was two days or two weeks. If the kids needed something and tried to cut in, we trained them to stand and wait next to us until we turned and said “Yes?” Sometimes they had a long wait, but that only served to separate the important requests from the unnecessary. If they decided it wasn’t worth it, they’d step away, and we could keep chatting. After all, with 14 kids, there was a great deal of ground to cover.
This fall will mark 45 years that Carole and I have been friends. What is it that holds people together over that many years, despite the obstacles of distance, busyness and infrequent contact? Part of it is growing through life’s changes simultaneously: marriage, children, mortgages, middle age. Another part of it must be knowing each other so well that all false pretense is gone. It’s a blessing to be with someone who doesn’t distance themselves, no matter what you do or say. Close friends are also bound by their beliefs and standards. They share at least some commonality in the things that make them tick.
We all know the misery of “high maintenance friendships,” relationships that require walking on egg shells and making contact on a scheduled basis “or else.” Other relationships are lopsided with one person doing all the taking, the other all the giving. And we’ve all known people who ride a never-ending emotional roller coaster to the point that we never know what to expect when we’re together.
Today I was thinking about heaven, as I do every day, wondering about Nate’s friendships. Scripture tells us Jews and Gentiles who share a belief in Christ will sit down together at God’s banquet table with some of the famous characters of the Bible. If we’ll be chatting over a meal with some of them, no doubt we’ll be making contact with all of them. And since heaven will be about harmony and happiness, my guess is we’ll be long-term friends (really long-term) with everyone!
God is all about relationships, between himself and people, and also person to person. I know he will bless Carole and I with a continued friendship in the next world, most likely to brand new levels. So I’m praying Birgitta will seek out friendships this fall that will be satisfying and long-term, too, during her years in school. Hopefully they’ll remain strong all the way into eternity.
“I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world — from east and west — and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 8:11)