Tag Archive | friendship

The Emotional Jackpot

Mom 8th grade graduation

Mom’s 8th grade graduation picture. Mom is at far right.

As I was thinking about what to write in my blog this week, I picked up my mom’s little black book again. This is the little hardcover “Memorandum Book” that Stella Lillesand, my mom’s Sunday School teacher, had given her in 1921, when Mom was 13 years old. Mom had used this book to write down Bible verses as she memorized them starting on October 2, 1921 and ending on August 5, 1923.

Her first entry was “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) Her last entry was “But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:57)

I decided to look up any verse she might have memorized the last week in January, this week almost 100 years ago. On January 29, 1922 she wrote, “A friend loveth at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17) When I read that, I thought I’d hit the emotional jackpot. My best friend, Mim, and I have celebrated the week between January 24 and February 1 for the last 27 years.

Moms Memorandum Book - Jan 29 1922

January 29, 1922 – Bottom of left page

The last week in January of 1973 I met Mim at a small group Bible Study in Chicago. I had just accepted a position as an editorial researcher for The World Book Encyclopedia and I needed to find an apartment, move into it, and be ready to start my new job in three days. I was staying with my friend, June, while I looked for an apartment, and I’d gone with June to her church Bible Study.

After the Bible Study, Mim walked across the room to talk with June and to meet me. When Mim found out I was under pressure to find an apartment and move in three days, she invited me to stay with her in her apartment until I found a place of my own – regardless of how long that might take. On February 1 of this year, we will have lived together 43 years. I never did find a place of my own.

M-M Lounging in our first apartment cropped

Mim and me in our first apartment in Chicago – 1973

By the time Mim and I had lived together 16 years our friendship had deepened and our lives had become quite intertwined. When a close friend of ours died without a will, we realized we should have wills and power of attorney documents drawn up for ourselves. We asked our Lutheran pastor if he would be a witness to the signing of our wills. He said he would be happy to do that, but also suggested that we might want to have a Blessing Ceremony for the church to bless our loving relationship and our lifetime commitment to each other. Both Mim and I thought that was a great idea, and on January 24, 1989 our pastor and a few close friends gathered in our home for our Blessing Ceremony.

BC-1 MM Steve

A picture from our Blessing Ceremony – 1989

Just two and a half years ago, on September 15, 2013, we added one more date to our list of anniversaries to celebrate – the day we were legally married.

All three of these dates are very significant to us. Being legally married conveyed the same rights and privileges to us that all other legally married couples have. That’s a huge relief from a practical standpoint. The Blessing Ceremony is when God and the church blessed our commitment to love and cherish each other for the rest of our lives. The day Mim and I met each other and Mim offered me her friendship, along with a place to stay, marked the beginning of a loving friendship that was surely a precious gift from God.

M-M Close-up - cropped

Our Wedding Picture – 2013

I think God put a pretty bow on this gift, perhaps a “God-wink,” by letting me discover that the Bible verse my mom memorized the last week in January of 1922 was “A friend loveth at all times.” God gave me the gift of a very special best friend 43 years ago, a friend who loves me at all times, just as God intends for us.

A friend loves at all times - cropped

Friends

Abbey-Marian

 

“Good morning, Abbey. You’re up bright and early this morning.”

“Yeah. Good morning, Mom. You moms sure got home late last night. I was waiting and waiting and waiting to talk with you, and when you finally came home, you went right to bed.”

Ann giving Abbey breakfast.

Ann giving Abbey breakfast.

“I’m sorry, Abbey. I didn’t know you wanted to talk. We had a wonderful day in Chicago yesterday, and we did stretch it a little more than we intended. I’ll tell you all about it, but first, tell me what you wanted to talk about all day yesterday.”

“Okay. I don’t know if you know it, or not, but every Sunday morning when you go to church, I spend some time thinking back over the previous week, and thinking ahead to what the upcoming week will bring. It’s my time for meditation.”

“I didn’t know that’s what you did, Abbey. That’s great!”

“Well yesterday, I thought a lot about the week in Boston, with the two bombings and everything that followed. It was a terrible tragedy. But, you know, I was SO PROUD of my cousins, the therapy dogs. They did such good work, comforting everyone in Boston from the injured and grieving to the police and other investigators, and everyone else in Boston who just couldn’t believe what was happening. My cousins did their jobs beautifully, showing everyone how to relax and take comfort knowing that we love them. You know, God created dogs for the primary purpose of demonstrating what real love is. I was so proud watching my cousins at work!”

Abbey welcoming Edith when she first came to live with us.

Abbey welcoming Edith when she first came to live with us.

“Yes, Abbey, your comfort dog cousins did beautiful work in Boston, just like you do beautiful work at home. I bet you spent time with Ann, letting her pet you, while we were gone yesterday.”

“Yup. I let her feed me, too. She likes that. She always tells me to chew my food and eat slowly. I don’t think she knows that every meal is a race for us dogs – to eat all our food before anyone else can get it. But she loves me, and I love her, too. Remember Edith? I loved her so much. I spent hours every day sitting by her side. And Patti. I crawled into bed with Patti to comfort her just a few days before she moved to heaven. Oh, and speaking of crawling into bed, remember how I used to wake Doris up every morning, by jumping in bed with her and licking her face until she woke up giggling! And Mary used to sneak me food from the table. I’ve had so many wonderful friends living here with you at Country Comforts Assisted Living.”

“Speaking of friends, Abbey, that’s why we went to Chicago yesterday, and why we came home so late. We went to the city to see lots of our old friends. We moved from Chicago to Wisconsin 21 years ago, but we still have lots of wonderful friends in Chicago. We started the day by going to Resurrection Lutheran Church. Before church started, we talked with a few old friends, then we worshiped together, and then we talked and talked and talked throughout coffee hour. We chatted with Gladys, Donna, May, Betsy, Brian, Harry, and we met some new people, too. It was so much fun to spend time with all these great friends, just like we used to do when we lived in Chicago.”

Abbey and Mary sharing a special moment together.

Abbey and Mary sharing a special moment together.

“Did you have time to eat any food, or did you just talk?”

“Oh, we took time to eat, too. And Gladys sent a coffee cake and some cookies home with us.”

“That’s good. What did you do next that kept you out so late?”

“We drove Gladys home from church. She’s in her 90s now, and doesn’t get around as easily as she used to. Then we drove a couple miles to North Park University, where Mim used to teach nursing. North Park was having a special service and reception to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of their chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing. Mim is a charter member of that organization, and she thought this would be a good opportunity to see some of her nursing colleagues. Did she ever talk a lot with them! We spent over three hours there. But one of her closest teaching buddies, Linda, wasn’t able to come to the event because she wasn’t feeling well. So Mim and I drove to her home in the suburbs to visit for a few minutes – which turned into an hour. Mim really enjoyed talking with all her old cronies. Then we came home.

Doris and Abbey comforting each other.

Doris and Abbey comforting each other.

“There’s an old saying that ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ I agree that laughter is a good medicine, but I think friendship is an even better medicine. Both Mim and I were so refreshed by being with some of our old friends again for a few hours. There’s another old quote that I like. ‘Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.’ (Marcel Proust) Our souls are blossoming again after our wonderful day with friends yesterday.”

“That’s good to hear, Mom. I have a quote about friendship that I really like, too. ‘The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.’ (Henry Nouwen) That’s the kind of friends dogs are.

“Abbey, I’m glad we’re not just family, we’re really good friends, too.”

“Me, too, Mom. And I’m thankful for all the new friends you bring home to live with us. Old friends, new friends, I love them all. That’s the way God made us dogs.”

Best friends and family.

Best friends and family.

A Special Cloud – Part 2

And now for the rest of the story…

Last week I wrote about Ruth, the latest addition to our assisted living family. Ruth moved into our condo (Country Comforts Assisted Living) less than two weeks ago. She was already receiving hospice services, and as soon as she settled into our home, she relaxed into the process of dying. Early yesterday morning she was born into her new life. Ruth’s son, her two daughters and their spouses, and some of her grandchildren gathered together at our place in the morning to share some time together, savoring being part of the cloud of love that has been hovering over our home that I blogged about last week.

Over the past ten days, members of Ruth’s family have become close friends of Mim and me. Sharing the experience of caring for a loved one as she passes on to her next life brings us together with a truly special bond. I’m thankful for all the new friends we’ve gained through Country Comforts Assisted Living. Both Mim and I really value the continuing friendships that have been formed.

“Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” Marilyn Huebel, a friend of mine who dates back to college days, also writes a blog every Monday. This morning, she started her blog by reciting the line above from an old camp song. In her blog she reflects on the different kinds of friends we have in our lives. Marilyn uses the image of an onion with all its layers to describe the types of friends we have – different circles of friends at different layers of closeness. (Here’s a link to her blog: http://monday-muser.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-colors-of-onions.html.)  I think an onion serves as a very good analogy for friendship. But since I’m not much of an onion eater personally, I’ll stick with the image of a cloud of love that surrounds me, a big, white, fluffy cloud filled with the positive energy formed by God and all my friends.

Between Country Comforts Assisted Living and Whispering Winds Retreat Haven, Mim and I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet many people, some of whom have become very close friends, and others who have become good acquaintances. I’m thankful for all the friends, old and new, gold and silver, that have come into my life – school friends, church friends, work friends, neighborhood friends, and, of course, family members. All of these friends contribute to the “cloud of love” that surrounds each of us.