Steel Magnolias

I tried to look up a term for a lifelong friend and couldn’t find one.  Some said it is like trying to describe the smell of a summer rain storm.  It is a fragrant sweet smell we all know and but there no words to describe it.  It is sure, solid and comforting – it is without demands yet gives from the depths of our souls.  It spans the test of time.

A life-long friend is precious.

My Mom’s lifelong friend is Joy Muldoon, otherwise known as Sister Ann Cecile.  They have been friends since kindergarten and although their lives have taken different paths (my Mom married and had 3 children, Joy entered the Convent and became a nun),  the fibers of their friendship have weaved a beautiful tapestry in and out of their lives over the years. They rarely see each other (perhaps 6 times over the course of 85 years) but their phone conversations have been precious to both.  They are the past, the present and the future to each other.

Last week I heard Rosemary on the phone with Sister Ann Cecile and it brought a tear to my eye.  They talked of leaving and going to heaven and what that would be like for them. They talked about what they wanted their services to be like and how they wanted to be notified when each other takes their last breath.  It was like sharing a recipe, nonchalant conversation with a gentle knowing of the next step. I sat in the other room quietly listening and sobbed. It was beautiful.

This week my lifelong friend Todd Yaeger will be here from North Carolina for a few days.  Although she will never admit it, I know the last time we spoke she heard something in my voice somehow, the slightest tone that only a lifelong friend might hear, and she knew she needed to be here.  No words were spoken other than – I need to come see you. She knows the last year of care providing has not been entirely raindrops and lollipops for me.

I met Todd in 1978, Freshman year in college at University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  I was sitting alone and scared in my dorm room and she walked by in her yellow quilted bathrobe, pink curlers, very southern accent and asked me if I wanted to share some of her ice cream.  That was the start of a great lifetime adventure with a remarkable woman and friend. I know when I see her, there will be no escaping the emotions I have been feeling this past year in caring for Rosemary fulltime.  My damn will break, and I will be safe in the arms of my friend to cry, laugh, go through old pictures, drink too much wine and sit around in our pajamas and just BE.

It’s important to allow people into your life and allow people to leave, the flow is healthy.   But when you find that one life-long friendship like Rosemary has with Joy Muldoon or that I have with Todd Yaeger, hang on to them, even when they enter your life in a yellow quilted bathrobe and pink curlers.

They are gifts.

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