“The Gift of Old Friends,” Oct. 17, 2017

Growing up, I would hear old people say, “There’s no friend like an old friend.” I thought they said it because they were old and young people made them feel older.

Now that I am one of them, I know that’s why they said it. Most of us would prefer to be with people who make us feel younger, not older — or at least, more alive than half-dead.

But feeling young and alive is not really about age. It’s about attitude and openess and a healthy sense of humor. And maybe a decent night’s sleep. Friendship transcends age. The years between us make no difference. But time itself — how long we’ve been friends and the memories we share — is the glue that strengthens our bond.

Recently, I attended a reunion for a church youth ministry that over the years — thanks to the grace of God and the heart of a gifted pastor — drew young people together like bees to honey in a hive of faith.

My late husband and I, who weren’t much older than some of those kids, had only minor roles: He played guitar at their meetings. I set and cleared the table in our dining room for their weekly potlucks. Mostly, our job was just to pray, in any way we felt led to do so, and to open our home and our hearts to young people who needed, as we all do, a friend.

For the record, I also baked a lot of brownies. And ate more than my share. Some are known for wisdom. I was known for chocolate.

In the end, as it often happens when we become part of something bigger than ourselves, the blessing was ours. Our lives were enriched, our faith was deepened, our hearts were forever marked by the kids who came through our door.

I could hardly wait to see them again — especially those I’d not seen since my late husband’s memorial service 20 years ago.

Have you ever noticed that people tend to age over time? Some more than others. None of us were kids any more. But when we looked into each other’s eyes and felt the warmth in our hugs, time slipped away, as if we’d never been apart.

We spent the evening catching up, laughing and telling stories, remembering each other, as well as others who would’ve been there if they could be, and who were, in fact, with us in spirit.

It was such a gift.

A few days later, I opened my door to two old friends I have known for almost 50 years. Never mind how old we were when we met. Suffice it to say, we know each other well.

Steve and my late husband taught high school together and ran miles together after school. Maribeth and I were like sisters, and moms to each other’s kids. They stood by me and my children through my husband’s illness and death. When I remarried, they acted as if they liked my new husband more than they liked me. I’m not entirely sure it was an act.

We’ve shared Thanksgiving dinners, leaky tents in the rain and a lifetime of memories that we revisit every chance we get.

If you could pick just two friends for life, you’d be smart to pick people like Maribeth and Steve. We live 500 miles apart, but see each other when we can. Each time I’m with them, it gets harder to say goodbye.

Old friends remember what you were like when you were young and don’t hold it against you.

They forgive your mistakes, put up with your flaws and love the person you’ve become, even if you don’t keep in touch with them as well as you should.

They edit your stories (“I never said that!”) and you edit theirs (“Yes, you did!”) and the truth shines somewhere between you.

They see themselves reflected in your eyes and realize that they have never looked better.

It’s true. There is no friend like an old friend.

Especially when you know that, come what may, life or death, hell or high water, in this world or the next, you will still be old friends forever.

Comments

  1. Cindy Coston says:

    Just a big AMEN, sister.

  2. Shashi says:

    Old friends are precious, I feel like you are my friend, a writer who reminds us about anything we forget to count in our blessings. I feel blessed to find you in your columns. May God keep you young and healthy! Lot of love to your sweet family who keep you young.

  3. Becky Haney says:

    Sharon, again you have written words that I’ve felt in my heart. I immediately thought of my friend Brenda, another one if your faithful readers, whose friendship I have enjoyed for over 50 years now. We were neighbors and her husband and I were in college together while she and my husband supported our families. We reared our children together and have suffered together through tough emotional times, deaths of parents, stresses relating to children’s problems, serious illnesses, and the death of my first husband and one of her children. Although reluctant at first to meet him, they became enthusiastic about my marriage to my second husband and helped host our wedding. Though we have lived almost a hundred miles apart almost 50 years, we remain so close that, if we haven’t talked for a month or so, our phones “mysteriously” ring each other up on their own! She is truly one of my life’s greatest blessings.
    Thank you for your wonderful columns that continually speak to me.

  4. Sydney Cooley says:

    Sharon, thank you for putting into words the things I was feeling. It was a special time to be with people who knew me in the infancy of my walk with God. Truly a remarkable time. And to have you there made it all the more special; your gift of hospitality made everyone feel welcome – then and now.

  5. Fred Hernandez says:

    My dear Rosasharn, I smile when I think of you. I think of happiness and warmth and the love of babies. I think of hugs and laughter. You make me chuckle over your love of Peeps. I send you and Mark buckets of love.

  6. Joleen Ferranti Hevner says:

    Rides to your house on the back of a motorcycle, coffee in Pfaltzgraff mugs (I still have mine), playing with Josh and the sheltie in the backyard, Campaigner Girls and Young Life, helping out with each baby, and knowing a truly beautiful woman, both inside and out for years…blessings, such blessings in my life.

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Oh, Joleen! You made me cry! I have so many wonderful memories of you, too! Thank you so much! Love you, dear one!
      As ever,
      Sharon

  7. Sarah Webster says:

    I enjoyed it very much, too. I think sometimes how my oldest friends know all about my youth and I don’t have to explain anything ever. They know me through and through. This is one reason I enjoy old high school reunions.

  8. George Balint says:

    Old friends are the best friends you could possibly have. Time apart does not matter. Even when you stand in line next to your roommate from 40 years ago and don’t recognize him, when you introduce yourself and realize who it is, the memories start flooding back. And for some reason the best of friends do not look any older in my eyes. To quote Bob Hope, “ Thanks for the memories”

  9. Barb Fisher says:

    This week’s column has special meaning for me, Sharon. I recently had lunch with 5 of my classmates from first grade. We are all 75 years old now and so every time we can get together it’s very, very special. I also have another friend I’ve known for 44 years. Our husbands were stationed together in the Navy and both have gone on to heaven. It is coming up to the third anniversary of my husband’s passing on November 1st, and although I’ll miss him terribly and I do everyday, I know where he is but these friends here on earth keep me going.

  10. Sue McDermott says:

    I enjoyed this so much! There are two women I love so much as my friends of almost 50 years.Both of these awesome women were in my wedding and we’ve been close in touch ever since! I’m in Florida, Elizabeth is in Palm Springs CA and Vicky is in CT. Although seperated by miles, we have managed to stay close through letters, cards, email & phone. Nothing can compare to a good friend.
    Thanks again, Sharon!🌿

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