A Faithful Friend

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;

whoever finds one finds a treasure.

Faithful friends are beyond price,

no amount can balance their worth.

Faithful friends are life-saving medicine. . .

Sirach 6:14-16a

This truth has been ringing in my heart in recent days and weeks. God has blessed me with faithful friends my whole life. The kind of friends who can start a conversation one day and pick up where we left off a year or two or ten later.

But the thought of leaving my friend, Michelle, pierces my heart with sadness.

I first met her when she brought her child to catechism class. I delighted in her son and appreciated her willingness to help in the program, but it wasn’t until a few years later, that I began to discover who she was. Our friendship was forged in the grief she carried at the loss of her newborn baby boy. Though I had not a clue what to say or how to accompany her, she patiently and bravely, little by little, opened her heart to me. As we spent time together, our friendship was born.

Then she and her family moved into our neighborhood and it was easier to go for walks or runs or just drop by for a chat. We both were aware of unhealthy boundaries in past friendships, so consciously decided to be as honest as we could with each other.

Our husbands played racquetball together weekly and this strengthened our bond.

In some ways we couldn’t be more opposite, yet we share many of the same values. Michelle’s faith seems to be part of her DNA. She might rail against injustices she sees in the Church, but no matter what, she shows up for Mass on Sundays and believes in the goodness of God. I admire her fearless attitude toward all things earthly, bodily, practical and human. Her insistence on attending to the nitty gritty balances my tendency to spiritualize every experience.

“When it hurts to look back and you’re afraid to look ahead, you can look beside you and your best friend will be there.”

– Unknown

Michelle was beside me when Evan was missing. She came to drive me to Chris’ house when I got word that they found his lifeless body. She intuited when to leave our family alone and when to stop by and give me a hug or leave a crockpot of pulled pork to feed all the people.

She rafted with Evan, loved him, and grieved his death. And, more than nearly any other friend, she understands the agonizing cry of my heart, so often on my lips when I’m overcome with waves of grief, “my baby boy!!!”

As I was lamenting how sad it is to leave my best friend, Doug reminded me that this “goodbye” is not final as it might have been in other times or places. Houston is a little over two hours away by plane and we can talk or make video calls every day of the week if we like. Indeed, I already have a March visit planned and Michelle and her husband have plans to make a trip to Houston in April.

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

– Thomas Aquinas

Dear reader, especially if you feel alone in this world, I can confidently speak for both Michelle and myself when I say we hope and pray that you find a faithful friend.

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