I went to a funeral on Tuesday. I’ve lost count of the funerals I’ve been to in the past few years. Which is odd to say at 38. My friend Amanda called me last week with the news her Dad was in the hospital and not expected to live long.
He died two days later.
She came by on Monday between running errands. If you haven’t planned a funeral, you may not know how much there is to do before it can happen. She only had a few minutes to stop by, but we sat and talked. Those first days after someone has died it doesn’t really hit you, so there were no tears then.
But Tuesday was different, Tuesday was the day of the funeral. I stood in the back at the graveside service and listened to all of his friends tell the story of a man who loved his family. A strong-willed man with strong opinions. They said over and over again how he would get into long conversations with you about everything.
As I stood there I looked to my left and saw my junior high youth leader, the same leader who is now the camp director where my boys go to camp. I saw my youth pastor, another couple of youth leaders, and several friends of my brother. I’ve known all of these people over 20 years, for some it’s approaching 30 years. That is a weird thought to consider.
Your head does weird things as you listen, I started to think of all that I have gained from these friendships, and why I value my kids being involved in our church the way I was as a kid.
Why life long friends are important
1. They know the ups and the downs of your relationships.
My Dad was an alcoholic. He divorced my Mom when I was a freshman in high school. Those same friends who were there with me when my Dad left our family, were there when my Dad was sick in the hospital dying, and were there when he could not walk me down the aisle.
We also know the true joys. My friends have been there to see my kids grow up, and I’ve watched her kids grow up. I’ve got a few cherished pictures of our 7 kids together as little kids, and now as her kids are about to graduate high school.
2. Life long friends pull you back when you need it.
How shall I put this? I like to run ahead of myself and do everything. I also tend to do something again, and then remember it was a bad idea.
Thankfully I have friends who remember for me, and remind me when I’m going too far (husbands are also great for this). Tara can tell me, “Honey, you don’t want to do that, it didn’t turn out well for you last time.”
And then I’ll go, “Oh yeah, I shouldn’t do this idea I think is brilliant.”
3. Those friends keep you involved.
Having friends at church who will ask me, “Why weren’t you at church on Sunday?” or “What have you been reading in the Bible recently?” is good for me. I can get wrapped up in my head pretty easily, and it’s good to have someone pull me back.
4. They know how you’ve grown and changed
Since my friends have known me for years, they also know how I’ve matured. Last year someone called me diplomatic, and I secretly laughed inside and then I went and called Tara and told her the entire story. She said:
“Ticia, you have grown more diplomatic. You no longer say the first thing that pops into your head, but think of how to phrase it better.”
To explain that comment, my brother once told me all about how his car had been broken into, and being the sympathetic sister I was I said, “Well that was stupid, why did you leave your valuables there?”
I’ve grown in that department. Usually, I still say things I shouldn’t, but now it’s when I’m tired or hungry. Not as often.
But really, it’s the life long friends who are there through thick and thin. This is what I want for my kids, so I do a lot of looking back at what my Mom did that made these friendships so pivotal.
- She insisted we go to church. It was important for her, unless we had a really good reason we were at most events.
- She gave those friendships a priority. I don’t know the number of times she just dropped me off at a friend’s house just to hang out. It was a lot.
- She modeled those same friendships. When I was 7 or 8, my best friend’s Mom got cancer. My Mom would drive her friend to her treatments, and then spend the day sitting in the hospital waiting for the appointment to finish, to drive her home. Later she would tell me stories about what she did while waiting. When my Mom was in a car accident and in the hospital for three months, I saw her friends react the same way. Actually my friends did as well. Sam cancelled his birthday party and spent that night in the ER waiting room as we waited for news of my Mom. Not how most 16 year olds expect to spend their birthdays.
I’m trying to imitate what my Mom did with my kids, and give them those same friendships I value so much now. I hope I can do as well as her. We’ll see in a decade or two how I did.