I met Claudia at a writing workshop. She later introduced me to her friends, Joan and Deb. When I first got to know them in a group, I was intrigued.
Claudia, Joan and Deb were each wonderfully creative, intelligent thinkers and life long learners. But they were not cookie cutter alike. Their personalities were different, but together they were a delightful one.
They could disagree on a fine point and freely express their opinions to each other without the others getting offended. They each were willing to consider another point of view without surrendering their own beliefs.
They were loving and compassionate. Each of us had experienced the pain of difficult relationships. Some challenges came through family, some through friends, some through jobs, but all of us had been down and almost out at some point.
But time and time again, I watched them set aside their own pain and heartache to care for the rest of us.
They were concrete and abstract at the same time. They saw the world in its sometimes dark hues, but were also able to see another world that transcended this one.
We were writers and story tellers. We did not have our theology all locked up neatly in a box. We had to say often, “I don’t know. I don’t understand. I’m still thinking about that.” We were all seekers.
We let our wondering flow out of our pens onto paper. Often as we shared, one person’s thoughts would trigger another’s and together we put new pieces of life’s puzzle together.
They were painters. I was a photographer. Together we mined the essence of God’s World within us and without and moved gently into each other’s space and time.
We were singers, not professional ones, but people moved by The Spirit. Together we sang and even danced. We prayed. When the girls came to visit, our house would reverberate with Joy even after they left.
They were more social and extroverted than I. They loved to get together over good food or go for a swim together, while I hung back. But they accepted me anyway and in hearing about their adventures, I was drawn into their world with them.
They were faithful to each other in all times and seasons. They were friends for life. While we all took breaks sometime to reclaim our own space, we always came back to regroup. We were like the waves of the ocean, going out for awhile to collect treasures, but always bringing something back to shore.
In recent times, there was no getting together. We each had health challenges, even before the pandemic. It was a hard time for all of us, but especially after Deb became very ill.
Having survived cancer miraculously multiple times, she was struck again. She once again waged a courageous battle, but ultimately she had to relinquish the outside life she enjoyed so much and go to a nursing home.
She spent her last days in semi or frank isolation. But her friends never gave up on her nor did she on us. Texting became a way of communicating. Everyone shared updates, encouragements, and yes, even a little prodding not to give up.
I treasure the exchanges because they reflected the lives shared. There was shared writings, paintings, philosophy, fears, wondering, and yes, still joy in the midst of intense suffering.
Claudia and Joan did the concrete things like coordinating Deb’s care, sending gifts into the nursing home, assuring Deb would get food she liked, installing a bird feeder outside the window, phoning or visiting through the window.
Having a series of health problems myself, my primary contribution was to pray and try to stay up with the text conversations.
We all hoped for Deb’s recovery. In one of the most poignant last texts, Joan texted Deb she was going to wash her window so she could see the birds and outside world clearer.
I like to think Deb got the message and looked out, but the world she saw was beyond the wonders of earth. I like to believe perhaps she took flight through that window her friend opened for her in love.
Claudia, Joan and Deb taught me so much about life and love. I cannot remember Deb without remembering the circle of friendship that surrounded her and gave her strength.
I am so thankful they included me in the circle and thankful to continue the journey here with Claudia and Joan. Even though we all remain apart physically, we are still together in Spirit.
Tonight I will sing and dance and pray and thank God for His Gift of friends.
A friend loves at all times.