My friend Mindy has been in my life for 45 years. We met when we were 13 and were fast friends by 16. We shared all of our youthful struggles..boys, college choices, life and mostly our struggles with ourselves. We were always there for each other and promised to remain so forever.
As life after college went forward we continued to share our ups and downs, through divorce, depression, children. But, somewhere along the way we became so immersed in our own lives we drifted apart, particularly over the last 10 years. Recently, as things began to calm down for me after my mother's death, I have found myself missing our connection -- the knowing we would always be there for each other and wondering if it were still true...that important promise to always be there for each other...even though we never called on one another to do so. I could, after all, cope with most things...but I did so more easily just knowing she was waiting in the wings if the time did arise when I couldn't.
I had begun to feel the certainty in our relationship drift away. I assured myself that I had new friends I could depend on -- though the words were never spoken between us as they had been with Mindy. She taught me that saying those things, and meaning them, were important to a friendship. Friends who are willing to go the extra mile for you don't come along every day. I knew Mindy was one of those friends. I was not so sure my newer friends were.
I knew she had cared daily for her SO as he suffered slowly from an incurable disease, dying in her arms. I also knew she had not reached out to me during that time. While I struggled with my mother's passing, drained beyond recognition, I did not reach out to her. Too much time passed and I no longer knew what she was thinking or if she even cared. It haunted me. I needed to know if we were still there for each other.
Last week I dug up her email address and shot her a brief email. Yesterday, I received a response. It too was just a quick recap, but in it she said the magic words, "You know I would be there in flash if you said you needed me..." And all was right with the world. In many ways I hope we never have to take each other up on the offer -- we've both survived so much pain and the constant dismantling of our 16 year old dreams without having to call in our chips. It would have to be something truly horrific to do so now and I don't want that for either of us.
Friends need each other and we need to know they care enough to be there for us in a crisis. We do not only need to think and believe it, we need to say it and mean it. We need to make the commitment to one another so that we can draw strength from the knowledge that there is someone who loves us enough to alter their lives for us. I have some newer friends who need to hear those words from me.