It Takes a Village

22 06 2014
Me and my friend Kathy. You can tell by the hair it was the 80’s.

Me and my friend Kathy. You can tell by the hair it was the 80’s.

“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. “ A little song I learned as a Brownie came full circle with a visit from my oldest friend. It’s a long way from Oregon to Louisiana. There’s been years of miles since Kathy left her home at 18 bound for college. We’ve seen each other a dozen or so times since then and have kept loosely in touch. Our correspondence gave us glimpses into each other lives and current on our big life events.

First day of Junior High.

First day of Junior High.

Our friendship is one of those magic ones, when we see each other, the years melt away and we connect with our old familiar friendship, no matter how different our lives are or how many years have slipped away. Kathy spent her visit between me and another old friend whose family friendship goes back further than our childhood. It took our buddy who lives so far away to get the two of us who only live a few miles from each other together.

Over dark, rich coffee at an old college diner, we shared our long buried memories of friends, school, pets, and the neighborhood we grew up in. Afterwards Kathy and I drove slowly up and down the streets of the town and went to visit some moms and dads, now in their 80’s, who raised us all. This time of year in Louisiana is lush and green. The crepe myrtles and magnolia trees are in full bloom with hot pink and white blossoms. It’s easy to forget the beauty of this river town.

Now and then. The yellowed photo is of us going to Girl Scout camp.

Now and then. The yellowed photo is of us going to Girl Scout camp.

It’s only with hindsight that I understand why it was important for Kathy to visit her childhood friends’ parents. In every visit with everyone we spent time with, it came up what a great neighborhood we grew up in. It was filled with young families in their first home. Our young years were spent with stay-at-home-moms and we walked to elementary school. We rode our bikes to each other’s houses with doors that stayed unlocked, had simple birthday parties with cake and ice cream, sleepovers, and lots of little girl giggles. We remembered old house numbers and old phone numbers (well…some of us). A remembrance of my dad having to “rescue” Kathy and her bike when she got suck in mud on her way to play with me made us smile.

The darkest thing that we had awareness of was that Kathy’s mom, our Girl Scout leader, died of cancer when we were 10. I was too young to comprehend how devastating that was to my young friend and those days it was believed the best way to deal with it, was by not talking about it. But all the parents understood the depth of this tragedy and all loved this little girl more than any of our other friends. I still felt that love with each hug that greeted us on our visits. My mom still calls her Little Kathy.

Sweet 16 and headed to the beach.

Sweet 16 and headed to the beach.

Many of us from that childhood neighborhood stayed friends as our families moved into newer neighborhoods with bigger homes and we went to different high schools. We shared those teen memories of driving and dating and first forbidden tastes of alcohol. I’m an only child and she’s the friend my parents invited on family vacations when I was a teenager, so they could enjoy their vacation and not have a bored teen spoiling their fun.

We’ve all lived full lives, each with it own ups and downs, blessings and challenges. What continued to come across in conversation was the gratitude for the lives we have led. It does indeed take a village to raise a child. With adult eyes, I realize that old neighborhood with it’s tree-lined streets was a true village. It raised us all and the safety and love that lived there, still lives on in each of us.

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Seeing Miracles

14 10 2012

A while back I read a little book called “Small Miracles”. It was about coincidences. The author said a coincidence was God tapping you on the shoulder saying, “I’m right here.” I’ve come to embrace that belief. Believing that, I see miracles in my life all the time. The challenge is being present when they happen. Often my life is hectic, stressed, totally pugged in; with the computer on and the Kindle in one hand and the iPhone in the other and the TV or Pandora on. When I get like this, which is far too often, I don’t see the miracles the universe sends me. When I allow quiet time in my life—when I make the time to meditate, to walk, to unplug and be quiet—then I see them all the time.

I work for a hospital. Often when friends have appointments they’ll stop by to say “Hi” and let me know what’s going on. There are now laws in place that say I can’t ask what’s going on medically in their life, so I’ve had to learn to be a better listener and let them tell me what’s going on. D stopped by on the way to her doctor’s appointment. She shared what was going on with her. Her medical issues were getting worse. D was pretty sure that surgery was in her near future.

Sure enough, she let me know of her surgery date after her doctor’s appointment and I made a note of it. The date slipped off my radar and she called me the morning she was admitted. I told her I would come see her with my co-worker, B who was also friends with her.

Work kept getting in the way of walking over to see her. D called at lunch to see if we were coming because she was ready to take a nap and didn’t want to be asleep when we dropped by. I told her to please take her nap.

The hours kept slipping by. When I was ready, B was busy in a project and then when she was ready, I wasn’t.

Finally as we were about to walk out the door, the skies opened and an afternoon monsoon hit. We simply didn’t want to walk across the parking lot in the pouring rain and our umbrellas were in our cars. By the time it stopped raining, it was 5:00 on a Friday. I was ready to go home and start my weekend. There was a glass of wine waiting for me somewhere. B said she was going to go see D. I rather halfheartedly went with her.

D was glad to see us, she was in good spirits. She wasn’t expecting anyone to come by, not even her family. They had already been there and she’d be going home the next morning.

We hadn’t been there more that five minutes when the doctor came by. B and I excused ourselves and waited at the nurses’ station. Again, we work for this hospital, one of our nurse friends was on duty and we got caught up in a conversation with her. It became a long conversation; we hung around for about 45 minutes before the doctor finally walked out. When the doc saw us she said, “I’m so glad you’re still here.”

The first words out of D’s mouth when we walked back in were “I have cancer”. We were stunned. As we listened we were able to grasp the hidden glimmer of good news buried in the bad. The surgery she had just had probably had gotten it all. The lab results had just come in and that it did show that it was cancer and it was probably contained. It was hard for us to take this news in. We listened, we hugged, and we cried together.

We did what friends do. We were just there for our buddy. We were totally present in this most intense and personal moment in our friend’s life. Her husband uexpectantly showed up. She hadn’t had time to call him, so he didn’t have the news. With her biggest supporter by her side, we left so they could be alone.

As B and I walked to our cars, we knew we had experienced a miracle. Everything in our day had conspired against us being there at any other time.  The universe put us there at exactly the moment when we were needed. We felt humbled and blessed. We knew that by simply being present that we made a small difference in our friend’s life. We were there at the moment when she didn’t need to be alone.

We were part of a small miracle by simply being a friend and being present in that moment. We felt God’s tap on our shoulder, “I’m right here.”

Epilogue: Our friend is fine and cancer free.