Pre pandemic, I joined a few friends at lunch to celebrate the birthday of another dear friend.  As I think back on this happy gathering, I am filled with warmth and gratitude – so thankful that I have such a friend and that I had the opportunity to let her know how much I appreciate her friendship. I have celebrated many birthdays during my 75 years – mine and many others.  But for some reason, this one gave me pause.

Maybe it’s age…no maybe – I’m sure it is.  I’m much more appreciative now of occasions like these.  No longer do I take them for granted.  With all life’s “busy-ness” behind me, I can slowly embrace and hold tightly all these wonderful little times spent with those who bring joy to my life.   I pray the reverse is true!

So,  as I think about by closest friends, I decide that for my purposes here, I’ll exclude all my loved and dearest family members.  There are so many of them – my dear husband and friend of so many years, our beautiful children, their spouses and kids, my amazing sisters and their families – all with whom I could spend forever!   But today I’m thinking of those outside my given family, those whose paths have crossed mine, incidentally, and who have chosen to walk with me on my journey.

First to mind come my eight book club friends.  Here, I think of them as a unit but not because they are so similar.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  We are all so very different from each other – leading very different lives, having made different life choices, born in different decades, and embracing so many different interests. But we’ve been together for many years and spend lots of time together, as a group and one on one, aside from our monthly book talks.  Any occasion, joyous or not so – brings us together,  always in gratitude.   Our conversations are vibrant, diverse – sometimes light and filled with loud guffaws;  other times we are serious, thoughtful – supporting each other no matter the mood.  We’re there for each other in joy and in sorrow.  Being together is easy and life giving.  My friends  inspire this space.

There are other close friends, indeed more than a few, whom I also put on this list.  They teach me, they comfort me, they amuse me.  They know me well and still, they remain.  As I bring each into view in my mind, I am struck by their uniqueness.  It is this, their individuality, that fills me with joy!   Time spent with each is always special and enriching, never to be taken for granted.

What makes these bonds so lasting, so full of real?  When we say goodbye, why am I always anticipating our next gathering?   What draws me to consider each one a true friend?

Here are a few of my thoughts.  In each and every case,

each women is interesting and independent in and of herself

each is a wonderful listener

each is empathetic

each has a sense of humor and sometimes that means laughing at herself

each is not afraid of trying something new, to step outside of her comfort zone

and perhaps most importantly,

each is embracing age and all it entails.

I’m so very lucky to have these special people in my life.

Who are your truest friends?   What is it that draws you to them?  Please share your thoughts with us.