“Forever Friends,” April 9, 2019

Seeing her name in my inbox made me smile. Patricia and I grew up together. We were friends through high school, then went our separate ways to marry and raise our children thousands of miles apart.

We reconnected years ago at a high school reunion. I liked everything about her, except for the fact that she hadn’t aged a bit. Not that I’d hold it against her. We now email once in a while, the way we once passed notes in class, like this:

Pat: “Can you come to my house tomorrow after school?”
Me: “Will your mama be making chocolate pudding?”

I’m not saying we wrote those things. I’m just saying we would have if we’d thought of them.

I was happy to see her note, until I read the reason for it. She wrote to tell me that Thelma, one of our former classmates, had recently passed away.

I didn’t know Thelma well, but I surely remember her. There were only 80 or so in our senior class. When you grow up in a small town, spending 12 years in a small school with the same 80 classmates, you get to know and be known by everybody and their cousins. You don’t have to know them well to “know” them, and to feel a kinship for them.

I once interviewed the late Pat Conroy after he wrote “Prince of Tides.” When he realized we both were Southerners, he said people who grow up in the same place know a lot about each other even if they’ve never met.

“Girl?” he said. “We’ve just met, but I know things about you not everyone would know.”

That’s what I felt for Thelma, not a close friendship, but a kinship. We were classmates and I took her loss personally. But she and Patricia were close.

“I will miss her!” Patricia wrote. “She always made time to call and check on me. She was a sweet friend.”

I wrote back to say I was sorry to hear about Thelma. I added that I treasure the friendship Patricia and I shared when we were young, and that I’ll always think of her, just as she thinks of Thelma, as a “sweet friend.”

That prompted an exhange of childhood memories. Patricia remembered coming to my house to talk for hours. I remembered going to her house to eat chocolate pudding.

We could’ve traded memories for days, but we said goodbye and signed off until next time.

Afterwards, I gave thanks for Thelma’s life, and asked for God’s blessings on her family. Then I spent some time thinking about friendship.

I am not what you’d call a good friend. Ask my friends. They’ll tell you. I want to be a great friend, and I try to be one sometimes. But in friendship as in life, good intentions and a C-minus effort are not enough. Friends like Thelma and Pat take time to stay in touch.

Over the years, I have known and loved and lost touch with people because I didn’t call or write or spend time with them. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. I can’t defend it. It’s not that I didn’t care about them. I’d say it’s because I’m busy with work and family — my husband, our five children and their others, plus seven grandchildren, with number 8 due any day.

But I know people with bigger families and jobs, who are a lot busier than I am, and they still make time to be a friend.

Lucky for me, I have big-hearted friends who know I’m not good at staying in touch, but seem to like me anyway.

I like those people a lot. I may not see them often. But when we connect — in person or by phone or with a quick note — we pick up where we left off, and it feels, at least to me, as if we have never been apart.

It’s a forever kind of friendship that lasts, no matter how many miles come between us or how much time we spend apart. We share an unspoken vow to see (or phone or write) each other “soon.” And if, God forbid, it doesn’t happen in this life?

We’ll look for each other on the porch in heaven in a section reserved for “Forever Friends.”


  1. Chris Hunefeld says

    Hi Sharon, I think we understand the non-contact, because it’s reasons are reciprocal. So, with that understanding, Occasionally seeing a grammar school friend is so familiar and wonderful. I think you nailed it! Please say hi to Mark!

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    Rare is the column where I find myself disagreeing with you…. but this is one. I think you are a great friend —even to those you have never met. You take the time to respond, and to reassure folks that they are not alone in their “joys and sorrows” of this life. You bless many souls because you share your stories and your heart and your life – with all its complications (and sometimes downright messiness 😉).
    We are grateful…. for you 🙂

  3. Patti Peters says

    Sharon how true your words! I reconnected with one I met in 1965, lost touch with, and then reconnected 3 years ago. I am spending 3 weeks now in Big Bear Lake, CA with him, enjoying and remembering all our pasts…lives together and apart. It is a blessing!

  4. Dick Daniel says

    It’s never too late, until it’s too late.

  5. Brenda Weaver McAbee says

    Hi Sharon,
    I was sad to read about Thelma dying. Like you, I wasn’t close friends but certainly knew her. We went to the same church during our school years. I must take the title away from you regarding being a “not so good friend”. I live close by to our hometown and had no idea Thelma had passed. I will say a prayer for her now and hope she hears it and forgives me for not being there as she entered a better place.
    (another of your almost 80 senior class friends)

  6. Terry McGee says

    Always enjoy your columns. I was in a class (1959) of 127; 45 of those are now gone. Seems impossible they are no longer physically with us, but I remember them well; even the ones I did not have much after school with. I’ve missed your columns the last few Sunday’s in our local paper. Hopefully, they will return soon.

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