In recent weeks, friends have extended themselves for me in a stunning variety of forms. Two male friends took turns shoveling snow for me when I was hit with a one two punch of storms. One of them also brought me kindling, twice, to stoke the necessary fires to keep cozy in bitter weather. Others checked on me with phone calls and visits. Without them, I may not have surfaced until the vernal equinox.
A woman friend accompanied me when I had to put my elderly dog down, even making sure I got ice cream afterwards (my particular emotional food). Many expressed solidarity and condolences in writing, having had that poignant and painful experience with a pet. A young woman friend, who’d also been through it, let me cry on the phone to her until I was spent. When the second, the companion dog died soon after, a male friend sat with me when my grief was most acute, waiting until I could again contain and function. And, there was the friend who lovingly and exquisitely cared for that dying dog in her last days when I could not be there.
Another man fixed a broken faucet, dismissing the speed and skill I so appreciated as “nothing.” A longtime woman friend hand knit an outfit for my soon to be born grandbaby, skills she may take for granted but assuredly I do not. I appreciate the couple who hosted us at their Vermont home for a weekend, including (at the time) two dogs. And, from an earlier time, I recall the woman friend who drove cross country with me and those two dogs and walked, fed, and put up with their antics for eight days and 3,000 miles.
All of these diverse expressions of friendship leave me feeling cared for in an intimate way and blessed beyond measure. Along with the heightened awareness of their generosity comes the question “Have I given back in kind?” Not that I want it to be a contest, a competition with the scales always in balance. I only wish to be mindful and to notice the particular moments when whatever I have to give may be needed. If I miss the chance, another will surely come along soon.
I also ask myself if I’m approachable. Would a friend readily ask me for help with something with the expectation that I would honor the request? I know for certain that there was a time when I was not approachable. I was too self sufficient in a way that others found intimidating. I’m happy to report, and the above incidences demonstrate, that those days of isolation are well and truly over. I’ve come out of hiding into the light of interdependence.
People didn’t change to become more helpful. I opened up, became more accessible and better able to communicate my needs, and to notice and meet the needs of others. This has been the journey of a lifetime and my evolution as the friend and the befriended continues in interesting and exciting ways. When you begin to notice the connections happening around you, your world can be one of curiosity and delight. And what we need can flow into our lives in perfect harmony.
Meg Spinella has been a hospice chaplain and grief counselor for the last 15 years. Besides her grief and trauma website, Noah's Ark Now, she is currently at work on a novel, You Were My Mother, about the effects of trauma on three generations of women.