Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. – C.S. Lewis
If you are a feminine bookworm, chances are you read Anne of Green Gables at some point in your life and maybe, like me, you were touched by the friendship Anne found with Diana. In childhood, and all the way up through college, I found it fairly easy to find someone who shared my interests du jour. If we were in the same class, same club, lived on the same street or went to the same church, it was a basis for meaningful friendship. And with plenty of time on our hands, cultivating and maintaining friendships proved fairly easy. As an adult, with my own family and responsibilities, deep, heart friendships have been more difficult for me. Having just finished my prescribed chemotherapy treatment, and also probably because I’m reading Nobody’s Cuter than You, a fantastic memoir on friendship by Melanie Shankle, I’m feeling a little reminiscent – and also analytical – about these important relationships.
Of all the close friendships I made in my formative years, the girl that remains “my person” was introduced to me in college. Patsy and I attended the same church, ended up rooming together and worked at two different part time jobs together. We studied together, went out together, skipped classes together and dated together. When she quickly met her soul mate, he became the brother I never had. Through graduating and our first professional jobs we remained constant in each other’s lives. We got pregnant with our first children just months apart and she even allowed me to be in the hospital room with her right up until an emergency C-section. Her daughter has my name as her middle. But when job opportunities moved Patsy and her husband out of state and the busyness of working and raising young families took over, our visits and phone calls got farther and farther apart.
My life as a stay-at-home mom of littles got lonely and I missed the assurance of having a best friend. With limited time to devote to friendships, I found it difficult to find someone to fill Patsy’s shoes (I know now that’s not possible and I wouldn’t want anyone to). We did playdates with other young moms, we invited families from church over for dinner, I planned girls’ nights out, I lunched with ladies from the gym. And I did gain lots of friends, but it didn’t satisfy that desire I had for a ride or die. I spent many years romantically fantasizing about finding that girl (who am I kidding, woman) who would know me inside and out. I wanted to be able to call someone my best friend.
In the last couple of years, I have come to appreciate the tribe of ladies I have around me. I’ve realized the richness of having several GOOD friends as opposed to one BEST friend. And Patsy and I reconnected on a deeper level again and have started making up for lost time as best we can from a distance. And she – and a whole passel of friends – cemented my confidence in “the tribe” through my cancer treatment.
It was a scary shock to me after the labs came back from my double mastectomy that I needed chemotherapy. The regimen my doctor prescribed involved infusions once a week for 12 weeks. As a couple of sweet souls immediately volunteered to sit with me during the process, my husband and I decided it would be fun to see if I could get a different friend to go with me each time. I knew I could go by myself, but what fun is that? And in my mind, this was a way to spread out the “burden” of accompanying me and not put too much pressure on any one person. God had a different purpose. As I easily filled all 12 weeks and had 4 others offer to boot, God showed my how much I was loved and how many good friends I had surrounding me. He transformed a hard time into a sweet, and often very fun time. This blog is an ode to friendship and the different ways it can look. And it’s my love letter to my tribe.
My husband Chuck went with me to my first infusion. And my last. He is the only person who got to go twice (I say it like that because I had one friend who told me I was mean spirited for only letting her come once). Chuck IS my ride or die. He is my closest friend and has loved me well through this and so many other things. My mom came for round two. There is no one else who has sacrificed to support me and be with me as much as she has. Round three belonged to my twin sister. I have loved her since the womb, some seasons of life better than others. The next week my younger sister got a sitter for her kids and came with me. I may have laughed more with her that week than with anyone else.
My first non-family member companion was Lisa. Her daughter is my daughter’s bff and they live in the neighborhood. Lisa has two busy kids and a full time job, but of all my friends, she is the one who will drop anything on her schedule and rearrange whatever she has to rearrange if I have a need. No excuses. Just clutch. I love her for that and so many other things. Week 6, my friend Erin came along side me. We’ve been friends for nine years. She runs her own business and left a kid at home alone on summer break to spend the day sitting and talking about deep things. Terri was next. She lives around the corner and was Allie’s kindergarten teacher (I can’t believe she is in 7th grade now). Terri is one of the most fun people I know and the only person who will get ALL my references to the TV show friends, so she made the process of chemo quick and relatively painless. Heather came with me too. She is an incredibly talented creative who brought scripture coloring books for the patients in the infusion room. And Heather is a prayer warrior. I always want her in my corner. Amy Re was next. We had to schedule her well in advance because she is a busy urgent care pediatrician. We met in high school through a mutual friend and it makes me feel very grown up to have a girlfriend that’s a doctor. Patsy, my person, rounds out the top ten. She flew in and spent 4 days with me for this. That time fed my soul and went by way too fast. Shannon came the next to the last week and brought “Would You Rather” cards with her. She is a relatively new friend and leads the life group I am a part of through my church. We almost didn’t get to the game because we spent so much time getting to know each other better, but when we did play, we had such a good time that other patients joined in. And Chuck, the chief of my tribe, helped me celebrate the last infusion.
I also include in my tribe the Dravet mamas, life group members and thoughtful others who visited me in the hospital, brought sweet gifts and cooked meals for us. I am forever grateful for how you all have loved me and my family through cancer and SO many other things. Thank you just isn’t enough. I will remember your thoughtfulness until I can’t remember anything anymore.
“Memories are simply moments that refuse to be ordinary.” – from Then Again by Diane Keaton