International Friendship Day is a day for celebrating those people whose love and kindness have changed our lives. Our friends are the people who understand our strangeness and love us anyway.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
“We’ll be Friends forever won’t we Pooh?” and Pooh answered,
Three short years ago we were dressing up and celebrating your 40th birthday. You were the Queen of the ball that night and now you’ve already left us. And the only way I can contact you is to turn on Smooth FM and wait until a really corny tune comes on and sing my heart out like we used to do together when we were in your car or trying to outdo each other at karaoke. We miss you so, precious sunshine, funny witty friend, devoted mother. I see you when the sun lights up the evening sky across the sea and your songs come on the radio. Shine on beautiful friend, thank you for inspiring me to do good work in the world
Goodbye our sunny, lovely friend. Some people are sent into our lives to remind us to smile, give our love freely and take pleasure in the simple things. Thank you for the joy and the sunshine you brought us, we will miss your beautiful face
I woke up this morning thinking of my gorgeous, generous friend and the times she and I would sing karaoke. We’d work our way through rock ballads, fabulous country songs, Patsy, Tammy, then Whitney and of course Dolly Parton. My funny friend also introduced me to the delights of Smooth FM and their back catalogue of hideous one hit wonders. A couple of years ago we gatecrashed an 18th birthday party at a pub and then it turned out C knew the family! She was there for me when I became a single mother and I didn’t know how I would cope. She showed me that single motherhood can be fun. Her funeral is today and I don’t think it’s right that two little girls don’t have their fabulous, funny mum any more. At 42 years old my beautiful friend had so much more to give, more books to write, many more songs to sing. Fly free my darling, your spirit soaring with the sun and the twinkling stars, thank you for your friendship. We will walk with your girls through this life. Love you, love always, always love
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.
When I was 21 years old my darling big brother was shot at point blank range in the head and lived to tell more tall tales. A pair of beautiful strangers helped him survive the attack and paid for his medicine and his travel. Not long after that my mother’s car was stolen after I’d borrowed it. The police found it later that night and when I went to the police station to collect it the young female cop said to me, “You don’t seem that stressed that the car is damaged.” I said to her, “It’s just a car, it can be fixed, my family and I don’t worry about inanimate objects any more.” I’m really lucky that I received a life lesson when I was young about what is important. A car is replaceable, people aren’t. Too often we worry about our stuff or how much we should spend to insure that stuff and it ain’t worth replacing. When I talk to the parents of kids who have survived terrible accidents or multiple operations or horrible illnesses they all tell me that they tend not to worry about the trivial stuff like the latest electricity bill any more. No one is going to read a list of the emails you replied to quickly at your funeral. If your child can’t go to preschool take the day off work, your report can wait. You may never have a day with just you and your four year old again, enjoy the precious moments reading a book in bed or doing a finger painting or talking about snot. Kiss people, hug them, tell them you love them, visit them with a bunch of motley flowers from your garden, don’t wait, just go, even if you can’t afford a present or don’t think you have time.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough” – Meister Eckhart
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Today my kidlets and I are heading to the dark side, visiting my oldest friends in the place I grew up. My visa came through and I’m leaving the single mother ghetto to return to my old hood, the leafy tree-lined streets of my youth. I am reminded of this George Eliot quote:
“A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”
Today I will eat and drink and talk too much and argue with the gals who share my outspoken, feisty view of life. I breathed every minute of my angst ridden teenage years with them. 30 years later I realise I had no idea how much their laughter would sustain me through births, deaths and attempted marriages. Love is basking in the shared joy of old friends on a warm, sunny afternoon.
I love being in my 40s, there’s a wisdom and a new found I don’t give a fuck what you think of me attitude to how I live my life, which wasn’t there in my 20s (and certainly not in my teens). I’m still young and fit enough to enjoy life even though wrinkles have started their long march across my face. But forty is also when you realise you’re not immortal and the friends you’ve had for 20 or even 30 years don’t last forever. That parents get sick and die, and being a grown up is really responsible. I’ve realised I’m now the same age that my parents were when I first made beautiful friendships that I thought would last forever. Some of those precious friends have vanished. And I thought I’d find other friends who shared their humour and energy and spirit, but those people are rare. And my darlings have gone forever. Sometimes I hear a piece of music and I think of lovelies I shared my life with. I think of my friend whose name is now on the AIDS quilt, he died so young. And I think of the times we spent lying in his bed reading to each other, sharing authors we thought were fantastic. And listening to music that we loved. And sending postcards to each other from far away places because the internet wasn’t invented. And I realise that when you’re 40 you really do understand that life can be a bloody bitch and that is why we must laugh and dance and joke and sing and be as mad as cut snakes and tell each other again and again that we love each other before it is too late. Because love can’t wait.