“The Final Stage of Maturity,” July 16, 2018

A nonscientific study of the adult years of maturation reveals three key stages:

1. Finding one’s identity.

2. Finding one’s purpose.

3. Finding one’s lost keys.

The first two stages can be challenging at best. The third (which also includes finding such things as eye glasses, cell phones, coffee cups, purses, TV remotes, and God forbid, the place where you last parked your car) can seem like a never ending nightmare.

We met long ago in church one Sunday morning. Never mind what year. Richard Nixon was president. The Giants were battling the stinkin’ Dodgers for first place in the National League West. And I was pregnant with my first child.

I liked her from the start for her warmth, her smile, her caring heart and her obvious intelligence. She asked the kinds of questions I would ask, if I was smart enough to think of them.

But I had no clue that day about the kind of friendship we would forge, or all the years and tears and laughter we’d share. Isn’t that the fun of meeting people? You never know how a stranger might enrich your life.

We were friends through good times and bad, defining and refining who we were and how we wanted to live our lives. We were daughters, sisters, wives, mothers and volunteers. We opened our homes and our hearts to host Bible studies and youth groups and potlucks, and welcomed teenagers who needed a safe place to stay for a night, or maybe, a lot longer.

In time, I’d land a job as a writer, and she would run an organization serving needy children in the community. We were fortunate, she and I, to have all we needed, and to be in a place and time to help others in their need. It blessed and defined and exhausted and fulfilled us. And it gave us a whole lot to talk about.

We don’t see each other often. We have full lives and precious little time to spare. But when we get together, we talk about what matters most to us.

I wish you could hear us. Not what we say. But how we laugh.

I remember the day years ago when we sat at the beach and wept as she told me her marriage was ending.

And another dark day, some time later, when I called to tell her my husband had lost his four-year battle with cancer.

Last week, for the first time in too long, we met for dinner, two old friends, hungry for a good meal and a chance to catch up. We ate and talked and laughed for hours. Then we hugged each other’s necks and headed out to the parking lot, where one of us could not find her keys.

It could’ve been me. It often is. But this time it was her. She rummaged through her 40-pound purse (it’s almost as heavy as mine) muttering, “They have to be somewhere!”

I spent five minutes figuring out how to turn on the flashlight on my cell phone, then shined it in her purse, under the car and in the window, checking the seat, the floor and the ignition. No keys.

“They have to be somewhere,” I said. “Did you leave them in the restaurant?”

She sighed. “I’ll go look.”

I got in my car and finally figured out how to shut off the stupid cell phone flashlight.

Suddenly, she came trotting back waving a handful of keys.

“Where were they?” I said.

“In my purse!” she said.

“Well,” I said, “we knew they had to be somewhere.”

Then we belly-laughed at what had been, only moments before, not the least bit funny.

Good friends do that a lot.

Someday, in our fourth and final stage of maturity, we’ll sit on the porch in Heaven, rocking back and forth, on and off our rockers, laughing at all sorts of things that are not funny now.

And we will never, hallelujah, have to look for our keys.



  1. Anne Wheelis says

    So very true! My best friend and I planned to sit on the porch of the old folks home and drive staff crazy. As former social workers, we knew exactly how to do it. Sadly, my friend died early from Alzheimer’s disease. I am blessed by a dear friendship with her daughter. I also take joy in having a connection with you (remember the gathering of kids walking to Lighthouse School?) and with your friend through my work.. I told her once that I thought we would all be good friends if we had the time in our busy lives. At the least, once we all get to heaven, I may be that hard dog to keep under the porch. Love your stories!

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    Thanks for the nudge… I’ve been promising a few old friends that I would “definitely be in touch next time I head over the hill.” But ballgames and dance recitals and birthdays keep eating up all that precious time. Next time I head over I’m going to KEEP that promise!

    Oh, in case you missed it, those boys in blue are in first place all by their lonesomes 😉

  3. Polly Caudle says

    Always enjoy your stories. Being from North Carolina, makes it even better. I hope to see you in Winston-Salem in September. Have a great summer with your grandchildren, they are so spsecial. I am looking forwrd to my first great grand child at the end of August.

  4. Elaine Mccaffery says

    I love this, I too see an old friend once in a great while . When we do see each other, we talk and talk . Pick up just like it was yesterday.

  5. Carol toothman says

    I absolutely love your stories!! I like to think that I will be sitting on a porch in Heaven with my best friend someday rocking and laughing. She passed away in October so I know she is saving a rocker for me.

  6. Old friends, Sharon, are irreplaceable treasures. Time stands still between contacts/visits. We pick up where we left off and we are truly blessed!!
    Much love!

  7. Colleen Smith says

    I can be having an awful day and read your column and no matter what you write about, I feel better. Thank you very much……

  8. There’s nothing quite like getting together with old friends…one on one or as a group! It’s good for the soul…and the laughter is sooo much fun!

  9. Shelia Koonts says

    This is me & my BFF Kathy. Your stories are also my stories! Love your column.

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