Beautiful discovery

One of 2013's "perfect pictures:" Ellis and me, together after 35 years!  July 2013

One of 2013’s “perfect pictures:” Ellis and me, together after 35 years! July 2013

“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.”Elisabeth Foley

One year ago today, I quoted from a wonderful book written by my friend Ellis Anderson, whom I met at college nearly 40 years ago.  Ellis and I were different in many ways, but we also had common threads that drew us together.  In fact, there has always been a side of me that no one understood quite as well as she did.  It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I’m not sure I could have survived college without her.  Of all my friends, she was the one who was always there even when it seemed no one else was.

In college, we had discussed song lyrics and literature, and Ellis let me read her amazingly well-written personal journals.  And she would play her guitar for me often, singing my blues or grouchy moods away.  I learned songs from her that I still sing to myself today.  We had an obnoxious habit of speaking (admittedly limited) French to each other when we wanted to share a private joke in the company of others.  And we went to New York City together, and exchanged stories of our extensive travels, both of us having fathers that worked for Eastern Air Lines.

Ellis and I ended up traveling in different directions, far and wide, never living close enough geographically to see each other, and always too busy with other obligations to make plans to get together somewhere.  We’d always communicated through words and writing, though, and that continued through the years.  She kept alive my connection to the person I was in my youth, even through all those demanding years of child-rearing and moving all over the country, stressful times that often made me feel as if the young woman I once was had vanished forever.

Last July, business brought her to DC. She was battling a nasty respiratory infection, but we knew we would simply HAVE to get together.  We had not seen each other in person for over thirty-five years!  Though she was terrified that she would infect one of us with the remnants of her infection (she didn’t), I was able to twist her arm a bit and have her and her lovely niece, Anna, spend one night with us before they headed south again.

It was almost like being back in the dorm together.  It was as if we had never been apart. We talked, laughed, caught up on stories we had not shared yet, and she sang and played the guitar for me as she used to do.  Most wonderful of all, she was able to meet Jeff and Matt, having heard about them and seen their photos for many years.  After months of sorrow, fear and exhaustion, having her visit us was like a blindingly bright flash of joy.

Ellis and her husband Larry are moving to a location a bit closer to us, so I hope to be able to see her again much more often in the years to come.  Whether or not I do, though, I know we will always be friends.

Are you thinking of a special friend as you read this? I wish for you an enduring connection to those steadfast and loyal people who believe in you and bring out your best, as Ellis always has for me.  It’s sometimes hard to make the effort to stay in touch, but it’s an investment that pays rich dividends.

One year ago today

Perfect pictures

36 Comments

  1. Friends are like flowering plants. They help each other to blossom, despite the physical distances between them.

    • Yes, the “cross-pollination” that happens in discussion is a great boost to mental, emotional and spiritual growth. In the words of a well-known Bible verse, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

      • That’s the way to help each other achieve the purest point in our lives. Thank you for pollinating your thoughts..

        • You’re welcome! Thanks for being here.

  2. raynard

    Julia, I watched a short piece of the video you have here. It reminded of the scene from Smokey and the Bandit, where Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T Justice walks out of the bathroom and front door of “bar& grill with toliet paper behind him. He takes it and cleans off his glasses lol..My friend who I call my adopted dad have known each other over 40 years since I was 17.. My oldest brother has 2 friends from H.S over 40 plus years.. I pick my friends, associates and acquaintances very carefully these days keeping in mind that bible verse about being friendly. ( is this the part where I start singing( can’t get it out of my head anyway) The theme to “the Golden Girls or did they “lose that can of wd-40 next to”the rustoleum” lol be blessed and thank you as always

    • Raynard, are you talking about Electric Light Orchestra’s fantastic song? That has to be the theme song for daydreamers everywhere. ELO is one of my favorite all-time groups and many of their songs are on my digital playlists. Thanks for reminding me of that song, I just enjoyed it again. Isn’t it great to have friends that go WAY BACK with us? My Daddy has a friend from childhood that is still his best friend, and this friend and his wife always were and still are second parents to my brothers and sister and me. Daddy and his friend learned to fly airplanes together as teenagers in rural Alabama, and both ended up as pilots for Eastern Air Lines. Not many friendships go back almost 80 years, and I think that is so cool!

  3. maryellen davis

    What a beautiful tribute to friendship! A lovely picture as well!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Thank you, Maryellen! I love your email name. πŸ™‚

  4. Jack

    Three old college friends and I go fishing together each year in the late Fall in Savannah, GA. Early on, the success of the trip was determined by the number of fish in the cooler; these days, excepting the story of the “one that got away”, no one much remembers or cares about the haul. The conversation over the years has changed from conquests to careers to children to health to spiritual matters, a little humility has finally snuck in amongst us Masters of the Universe (you a Tom Wolfe fan??). We’ve all succeeded a little, failed a lot, kept going in both. Several years ago, don’t remember exactly when, we actually started praying before dinner. Praying!

    By the way, I caught the most fish last October, just thought you’d wanna know.

    • How wonderful to have an unchanging context against which to measure the passing of years and variable priorities. Yes, age definitely brings humility! I love it that you are now praying together; always a great cement for friendship. I won’t ask how many fish πŸ™‚ since, as you say, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve read only a few of Tom Wolfe’s books but I loved Bonfire of the Vanities and I will never forget Sherman and the “Masters of the Universe.” I never did see the movie which I probably would not have liked. I’ve heard a full spectrum of opinions on Tom Wolfe but one thing no one disputes is that he really knows how to tell a story.

  5. Isn’t it interesting how with some friends you can just ‘pick up’ exactly where you’ve left off no matter the time apart? Good Morning Julia and thank you for sharing your story and beautiful photo. How fun to have a friend to sing with, I love singing out loud. These kind of friendships are few I think. I have a girlfriend, now living in south central BC that I’ve know since I was 6 years old. I practically grew up at her house and her beautiful and talented mom was my mentor and supporter for years. I actually drove out there a year ago last fall. A number of my childhood girlfriends are grandma’s now too and it’s so fun to see when you’ve been friends since your own childhood. As with you and Ellis, I know well be friends forever.

    • One piece of advice I’ve given often to young people over the years (solicited or unsolicited πŸ™‚ ) is not to neglect their friendships. It’s so easy to get caught up with romance, family, and career, and let friendship fall by the wayside. I try to prioritize staying in touch and though Facebook can eat up a lot of time (which I try to limit) it has been wonderful to get in touch with childhood friends whom I haven’t seen for decades. Friends stay in our hearts forever.

      • So true Julia. Distance and time can’t dampen the resolve when you make a commitment to friendship. I think it’s an important message for young people to hear, even if they never asked. You don’t know, what you don’t know.

        • Yes, when we are young we tend to have this illusion that things will go on forever, or at least as long as we want them to go on. Even though we know the days and weeks pass quickly, it’s hard to imagine what things will look like in retrospect once we reach “a certain age.” I suppose in some ways it’s good that we don’t know what we don’t know, but we do need to listen to the experience of people older than we are, and share our experiences with those younger. I totally agree that young people need to understand that friendship is a much deeper thing than clicking “like” on a Facebook page – even though that can be a delightful part of friendship!

  6. How lovely ~ I am so glad you kept in touch and had time for eachother. My best friend since we were 9 lives in CA so we rarely see eachother, but when we do, it’s always like we’re young girls again!

    • Having a childhood friend is such a blessing. There is nothing like a shared “ancient” history to connect us to someone!

  7. Carolyn

    Julia you look great!!!!! I hope Jeff, Matt and you will have a great week. I have a friend Mary that we met in Alaska in 1976, she lives in Alabama, but we try to see each other once a year. Bless her sweet heart, she will come to me. We had a nice visit in October. She said she had to come and make sure that Terry was taking care of me. She is a jewel!!!!! Hugs and love to all.

    • Carolyn, friends such as Mary really are jewels, they add sparkle and value to our lives. I’m so happy she knows that you are a treasure! I’m also glad someone is making sure Terry takes good care of you although I know he is up to the task after watching him firsthand πŸ™‚ – he reminds me a little bit of Jeff, the “strong silent” type! (You may be laughing when you read that but maybe that is why Jeff got along with you so well!) I have been thinking of you and praying all is well. I was reading a book just last night where the author was describing her bout with shingles and I thought of you!

  8. Michael

    That is pretty awesome you two- or you’all have kept contact since college days. The only college friend I can recall- is at the same time-my dear wife. Hope you two can share some time now that you will be living a little closer.
    There is a hospice talk called “Five Wishes”, and one of them is that people wish at the end of life they had kept closer contact with their friends. I have been doing some hospice volunteering over the past year- may have mentioned that.

    • Michael, how wonderful that you are doing hospice work! I do think there is a clarity to that time that we would do well to observe. I always tell Jeff that on my deathbed I don’t want to be thinking how clean my house was. He always says “No chance of that!” πŸ™‚ Seriously, I think that is definitely one of the five wishes that many, many people must feel; I hope to avoid it, though there will always be those with whom we wish we had more time. What are the other five wishes?

  9. MaryAnn

    Looking at your radiant smile brings joy bubbling up! I agree w/ this quote. You & I are a great example of it! Love the connection we have, that will only strengthen as time passes!

    • Thank you Mary Ann, I agree!

      • MaryAnn

        Your encouraging blog sent me to my greeting card box. I selected 4 cards to spread the love you share. Delightful way to remain entwined.

        • Mary Ann, thank you, from me and on behalf of all those who will go to their mailboxes and find a nice surprise! πŸ™‚

  10. Michael

    “Five wishes” is actually a program to help people talk about end of iife wishes. The talk I heard was by Kathy Taylor and she listed these thoughts.
    1. Wish I had the courage to have lived my life and not the life others wanted me to live.
    2.Wish I had not worked so hard.
    3. Wish I had had more courage to express feelings.
    4.Wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
    5. Wish I had let myself be happier.
    6.Wish I had fulfilled more of my dreams. Most of us get to less than half of our dream list.
    This might have been a TED talk so will try and find the link.

    • That sounds like a really good program, Michael. I think it can be very helpful to ask ourselves what is going to matter in the end. When I read your comment, I started giving some thought to what my wishes would be. It’s a touch question, because in general I have very few regrets. But there are some things I would do differently. I wish I had been less focused on having the approval of those I love, and more focused on giving them my approval as often and as continually as I could, through words and actions. I wish I had learned to “act” more than “react” in all the hundreds and thousands of situations that I faced in daily life. I wish I had placed (or accepted) fewer limitations on what was possible for me to accomplish outside of having a family, though I have absolutely no regrets about having prioritized family life. I think for women in particular, it’s easy to slip past “prioritizing” family, into using them as an excuse to “hide out” in the cocoon of home and disregard any other ambitions we may have had. Thanks for a thought-provoking summary. We have many things to learn from those who are at the end of life!

  11. Sheila

    Julia, as I read this early morning, and could not reply because of limited time, I could only think about today and that I was my traveling to see my best friend, after almost 3 years. Distance does not ever separate those that are bonded. The soul is truly in the heart! I’ve arrived, we are so happy, and “Life is good!”

    • Sheila, how wonderful that you were able to see your friend after 3 years away, and what a coincidence that it was on this day! I hope you had a wonderful day, the kind that is described in one of my favorite old songs from 1970. Sometimes when I have a visit planned with my friend Amy who lives less than an hour’s drive away, I sing this song to myself the day or two before I go to see her. πŸ™‚ Even when our friends live fairly close by, we tend to make far too little time to be together. Come to think of it, to Michael’s description of an “end of life wish list” I think I would add “I would have made more time to be with my friend after my children were grown.”

  12. Two lovely ladies. and a beautiful tribute to friendship. πŸ™‚
    My friend, Fran and I have been friends since HS days. We don’t get to see each other often, she still lives in GA. But we’ve kept in touch through the years (over 50). Now we “see” each other on FB.~/

    • Merry, thank you! I am so happy you have a friendship that goes back 50 years. Truly rare in today’s world, and I know you treasure it! I think the best thing about Facebook is its ability to keep us connected to people we have known in real life. Letters are wonderful and hearing someone’s voice on the phone is too, but sometimes a picture really is worth 1000 words – or more!

      Hey Merry – guess what — your comment here was, according to my WordPress stats, officially the 10,000 comment of this blog! To celebrate, I would LOVE to send you a $10 Amazon gift card (the tiny little “door prize” of choice around here) – I think I have your address from when I sent the “party favors” in November – is it the same? πŸ™‚ Thanks for being here and for being our 10,000 comment!

  13. Studies show that people who develop lasting relationships live longer and have face stress better than those who do not. It can be very difficult to maintain friendships. People get busy and move on to other things. This is a lovely story and a beautiful picture of you and your friend. God bless you both with long, happy lives. Love, A

    • Amy, when I look back over the past 34 years, I have many cherished friends in my heart, but only a select few have made the time to keep that close connection despite time and distance. Obviously, you are one of them, even though the distance has sometimes been literally half a world away. (Ascension Island makes Germany seem close by!) I cannot tell you how many ways our lives have been blessed because you made that time. P.S. What’s for dinner at your house tonight? πŸ™‚ I love you, my faithful friend!

      • I love you too and my world is brighter because of our friendship. Love to the boys. My boys took me out for steak tonight but I paid, hmmmm. πŸ™‚ Oh well.

        • Hey, sometimes it’s good for the ladies to pay for things. Knowing your guys I know they aren’t the kind to take advantage. At least not too often. πŸ™‚

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