I’ve known her since I was six years old, and she was three. We’ve been friends since we met. It was really by default — our parents were best friends; our siblings were the same age and shared a mutual disdain for us, so we became quick comrades. Our parents gave us the same toys to play with (like dolls and prestidigitation (not magic!) sets) and enrolled us in similar extra curricular activities (like dance classes). For about three years — until our family moved to Florida — we were inseparable.
She and I went to Italy together when I was 22 — a trip we will never forget — and she was in my wedding a year later. Now we’re practically related; my sister married her brother. As with many adult friendships, ours has not included frequent visits over the years I’ve been married, but we’ve been there for each other during the important milestones in life.
During my first fight with breast cancer, my sweet friend sent me care packages from Sephora — if you’ve been following my blog long enough, she’s the friend who sent me eye shadows and mascara and lipstick and masks and nail polish — gifts that allowed me the distraction of doing my makeup and dressing up my face and making me feel feminine during my battle.
When my friend’s mom got sick she helped care for her over four long years while her mother continued to deteriorate. Her mother became a shadow of her former self and it was heart-breaking to watch her go from such a lively and vivacious person to one who barely spoke or smiled. I can only imagine how difficult it was for her family to watch it first-hand.
This friend is a self-acknowledged introvert. We don’t speak about feelings or emotions — she keeps those parts of her deep inside her mind. But she has shown me her feelings and emotions through her actions — from being the ideal bridesmaid (smile and do what the bridezilla says) to sending me Sephora care packages to most recently coming to visit me.
If you remember, I’d met with a surgeon in September who was going to perform a DIEP FLAP reconstructive surgery for me. I encourage you to Google it if you want details of the surgery, but the short version is that the surgeon takes the fat from your abdomen and forms breasts out of it. Long-term results are great, but the recovery is intense and difficult. I was scheduled to have the surgery around Thanksgiving, so my sister was going to stay with me immediately after, and my dear friend was going to follow behind to continue to aid me in my recovery.
The fact that I got sick again and that the surgery was cancelled did not mean that she could not still visit, so she went forward with her plans to come see me anyway. She arrived last Sunday.
I have a confession: I was nervous about her visit. I have not had anyone other than my immediate family around me during my chemo “aftermath” — that is the time after chemo when I crash, sleeping almost constantly while experiencing flu-like symptoms. I wasn’t sure what to do with my friend when I got like this. And she would be here for the entire time I would feel this way.
What I forgot is that my friend — being an introvert — likes the quiet. She also had experience with caring for someone who was ill. I had nothing to be worried about. She didn’t seem to mind at all.
She left this morning, and I’ve been thinking about her visit ever since. Initially I was concerned over whether or not she enjoyed her stay — she can be a little difficult to read. But as I thought more about it I realized that all indications pointed to a successful visit.
We bonded over Pitch Perfect and binge-watched some shows on Netflix that we really enjoyed. She seemed to enjoy the companionable silence as we each read on our tablets. We laughed together — a lot. She loved our dogs and seems to have decided she’ll look for one of her own to adopt. She hugged me tightly when we said goodbye at the airport.
With this friend, I discovered, I just have to pay attention. Watch her face while she’s watching a movie or petting my dogs. Listen when she speaks. Recognize that silence isn’t always a bad thing. And give thought to what her kind gestures really mean. Doing that made this image pop into my head.
I love this illustration. It’s so matter-of-fact. There is no elaborate explanation or ceremony. No big presentation. Just the word “here” as she hands over her heart. That is my friend and I’m so grateful to be a recipient.