Today, I lost a friend. She was a widowed mother of two, working full time to provide a life for her son and daughter. She was kind and energetic. She was happy and involved. We chatted as we picked up our boys from each other’s houses and exchanged greetings over the back fence. She took my son to the splash pad, and I had hers over for movie night. She was a good mom who loved her kids, but now she is gone, and I am left wondering: Did she know I was her friend?
I was planning on getting closer to her. I wanted to have her family over for dinner. I thought about stopping by one day to help clean up the house. I meant to ask if I could take her kids so she could have a night off. Once life was a little less busy, I was going to take the time to really get to know her. My best intentions are now all too late.
I hope she had close friends. I hope she wasn’t lonely. I hope someone knew about her health problems and was watching out for her. It is incredible that in a world crammed full of people and buzzing with social media connections, so many of us feel all alone. I hope she didn’t feel that way. I really wanted to be her friend; I was planning on it, I just hadn’t gotten around to it.
And so, I have decided that being friendly is just not enough. Being a real friend is what matters. We need to know each other. We need to care. We need to love. We need to include and invite. Not everyone has a mother or sister or best friend waiting in the wings. Sometimes friendship is not easy. Sometimes relationships take work. Sometimes outgoing people are friendless. Sometimes we have to expand our circle until it is about to burst and we think we can’t have one more person in our lives, but we can. It’s why we are here, what else is more important?
Real friends call on birthdays and stop by just to say hello. Real friends watch out for your children and have your back when no one else will. Real friends do what is inconvenient, they make time for you and make you feel wanted. Real friends cry with you and want the very best for you. Real friends watch you make mistakes and forgive you. Real friends know you, really know you, and they love you anyway.
That is who I should have been for her. It may not have made a difference today, but it may have made her previous days a little brighter, a little less difficult, a little more enjoyable and a little less lonely. She may have had one more person in her corner. I could have been that person.
I am now left wondering what was so important a load of laundry? A soccer carpool? An email? It all seems frivolous now as I think about her two children who are left wondering, “What’s next?”
So, for her, Let’s be better. Let’s stop just “doing what we are supposed to do,” and start truly caring and loving each other. It’s more than a quick plate of cookies or a smile and a wave. Let’s take time even when we don’t have any; Let’s slow down and see a need; Let’s stop thinking about what is best for only our family.
I will be better. I will find energy even when it feels like I am running on empty; I will listen when I want to talk, and I will pray for more strength when mine is gone. I will re-teach myself how to be a friend, even to those who might be different, needy, or closed and I will find joy in the process of loving, serving and connecting with them.
If the question, “Did she know I was her friend?” ever arises again, I want to say with confidence, “Of course, she knew. We were wonderful friends.”