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Friends are forever

When my older daughter, Angela, graduated from high school in 1984, her commencement featured twin classmates of hers singing a touching song called “Friends.”

“A lifetime’s not too long to live as friends,” says one line in the song by well-known Christian music artist Michael W. Smith, who wrote the song with his wife, Debbie.

Milestones often have a way of reminding us that life is not static. Whether we realize it or not, life is in a constant state of change.

In the almost 18 months since I retired last year as a Vidette reporter, a milestone in my own life, I’ve discovered that one of the richest gifts retirement has to offer is time to pick up some of the closest friendships of my life, put on hold during my hectic working years.

Computers and smart phones aside, keeping in touch with friends can be difficult when 40 daytime hours — or more — every week are spent earning a living. Even after their children are raised, working folks still spend a lot of time off the job getting ready for the next work day … and work week.

For me, maintaining my home and my vehicle, keeping up with the laundry, the grocery shopping, the cooking and myriad other chores necessary to be available for my job felt like I was on deadline constantly, both on and off the job.

Rarely did I have the time even to check in with my friends by phone. Texts and emails are admittedly better than no contact at all. But close friendships are very personal, and they thrive best when given time for nurturing that special relationship.

One of my fondest hopes as my retirement neared was that my friends, especially those with whom I had shared an especially close bond, would still be there. I am delighted to report that they were; moreover, they have been as overjoyed as I have that we now have more time to cultivate our treasured relationship.

Several of them are now dealing with very serious medical issues, and one even broke her neck in a mishap on some stairs several weeks ago. But the blessing of more time to spend together is even more meaningful in those cases. (The friend who broke her neck, by the way, is doing well.)

An added blessing is that picking up these valued friendships has not been difficult. In each case, it’s been as if the great deal of time since we last had much contact was more like a “long pause,” sort of like we might pause a movie we’re watching to get a snack or take a bathroom break. Except for catching up on what’s been happening in our lives, it’s almost like we had not been out of touch at all.

I’ve found that close friendships generally have intricate histories. It’s a bit like another line in the song “Friends” — “Our hearts in big and small ways will keep the love that keeps us strong.”

Anticipating renewing another friendship with a very loving lady, I had a nice surprise this weekend when Angela told me she’d seen her Sunday at a restaurant. My daughter gave my friend my current telephone number and provided hers to me. YES!!!

Another delight is that in my new “neighborhood,” where I moved to last October, I’ve been making some new friends, which I also had little time for during my working years. As I was leaving home last Thursday for my weekly trip to a women’s ministry in Chehalis, to help encourage some ladies dealing with difficult life issues, one of my new neighbors teasingly called me “Child” and told me not to be too late coming home. (At least four of us are all 67 years old.)

Come September, my former classmates at Issaquah High School and I will gather for our 50-year reunion. I look forward to catching up with friends at that event, too. Sadly, two of my closest school pals have died. But it’s a reminder to continue to value relationships with those who are still here.

I also believe that even death cannot sever my friendships with others who share my Christian faith. Because of the one the Bible calls “a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” some might “pass” before me — or I might before they do. But there’s another reunion scheduled. Not knowing exactly when doesn’t matter … as long as we know the place — and the friend who will bring us there.

As the Smiths’ song puts it: “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them.”

Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin is a retired reporter, who still contributes to The Vidette. Contact her by emailing the editor at editor@thevidette.com