I have heard it said that you find out who your true friends are in the most difficult of times. I think that is especially true when there is serious illness or death involved. Sometimes, it is that very adversity that strengthens a friendship.
Almost anyone who has lost someone close to their heart will tell you that in the first days, so-called friends and many acquaintances come out of the woodwork to help you in your grief. But days, weeks, months later, who is still there? Who are the people who still call, who spend time just being present for you, who somehow become an integral part of the warp and woof of the fabric that is your new existence? Those are the people you know are true friends for life. Those are the ones I think you can call best friends.
What is a best friend? To me, it is that person who stands with you as you grieve – for however long it takes for you to heal and find peace. They are there when you cry, when you laugh, when you rage against the cruel gods who stole your love from you, when you can finally begin remembering happier times. They are there. A best friend is someone who will rush to your side when you are weeping hysterically but unable to articulate why. And they are the ones who will sit beside you, holding your hand as you listen to a doctor’s grave words. They are there when you need them, and they are there when you do not even admit to yourself that you do need someone. They are there.
Now, I have had friends for as long as I can remember, many of them good friends, but only a very select few have ever attained the status of best friend. I don’t know what is true for little boys but as children, girls go through a succession of best friends. I did too, but today I doubt I could name more than one or two of them. They were friends of my childhood before I could discriminate the difference between good friend and best friend. I think that as we mature, we become more cautious about who we allow to be that close to us, who we let in to our most sensitive selves.
But what, I hear you say, about husbands or wives, lovers, soul mates, significant others? Are they best friends? I would like to think so, but the truth is, that relationship is different. Somehow, the physical intimacy complicates it. The connection is different. They are an entirely different type of best friend.
As an adult, I have had five best friends. Only five. And I have reached an age where I doubt there will be any more. So, it is very distressing to me to realize that only three are left. I mourn the ones who are gone. I pray for the wellbeing of the ones who are left. All five of them fit my definition of best friend but only three are still here where I can touch them. Drawing on each other’s strength, we have battled grief, illness, emotional trauma, life. And we trust one another to always be there when life starts throwing curve balls as it is wont to do regularly.
I need these friends. They are my stalwart companions in the face of life’s challenges and have saved me more often than I could ever have imagined. I pray they will be with me should I again have to find my way down grief’s rocky path. It is not a road to be followed alone.