66: A Journey with Friends

66: A Journey with Friends

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

A Journey with Friends

Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.

~Swedish Proverb

“But Maggy, I’m all alone! I have no one left except my kids,” I cried. “And they live far away, my parents are dead, and my sister too. I have no living relatives,” I practically screamed at her. “I’m an orphan now!” I said bursting into tears.

It was my weekly therapy session. I had been seeing Maggy regularly for several months since my husband of forty-plus years left me a young widow. I was devastated when he died suddenly. Paul was my love and my rock. Now I was trying to cope with my life alone. I was truly terrified.

“Sallie, you are not alone. Your friends will come forward to support you,” she consoled.

“Maggy, my friends are all still very busy. They’re married with husbands, grown kids, and grandkids. They don’t want me hanging around.

“Don’t you get together with them now?” she asked.

“Sure. We go to lunches, book club, art club and I talk to them on the phone and text them a lot, but they have their own families; their own lives.”

“Sallie, you’d be amazed at how friends step up when you need them. You’ll see.”

Well, I wasn’t totally convinced. I had girlfriends who I’d known since grammar school but I also know how we all get wrapped up in our own stuff. My friends and I had all experienced the grief of our parents’ deaths but I was the first widow in the group. I didn’t think they’d know what to do with me, what to say to me.

As the months went by I would get so deep into my grief that I couldn’t speak. I would cry until my eyes were almost swollen shut. That’s when I would reach out to my girlfriends.

“Gerri, I can’t live without him. How can I go on?” I sobbed into the receiver.

“I’ll be right there,” she replied. The next thing I knew there was a knock on my door. Gerri gave me a big hug and held me until I stopped crying. We sat in my kitchen having coffee as she offered words of comfort.

The next Sunday my doorbell rang at 10:00 a.m. I opened it to find my friend Eulalee standing there. I have known her since third grade and she cares very deeply but rarely shows her feelings outwardly.

“I’m on my way home from church and I just thought I’d stop by. Is it too early for tea?” she asked.

“Never, come on in,” I replied, delighted to have some company and a welcome diversion from a long lonely weekend.

From then on, every Sunday morning my doorbell would ring and there would be Eulalee smiling and asking, “Got a few minutes?” I’d put on the teakettle and we’d sit for an hour or two. She’d listen to me talk about Paul and her eyes would glisten with tears. Sunday after Sunday she listened.

About this time I met a gal in my art class named T.J. We hit it off immediately and I found out that she was a mom with grown children, her husband was also named Paul, and she lived about a mile from me. She became my close friend and she would tell me what we came to call “bedtime stories.”

Every night right after the ten o’clock news, the phone would ring.

“Hi there. Whad’ya do today?” T.J. would ask.

Just hearing her voice was very soothing. It settled and grounded me so I was able to sleep. She would listen to all the trivial events of my day. I felt safe and like I mattered to someone. She’d always end with “I love ya, sista!” If T.J. didn’t hear from me for a day I’d get a text, “You okay?”

The culmination came when I got my first bout of the stomach flu while living alone. It was a particularly bad one. Lying on the bathroom floor, I wondered who would help me. I could die and no one would know.

I needn’t have worried. When I didn’t answer T.J.’s text message, she called. I answered weakly on her third try. I wouldn’t let her come over since I was contagious so T.J. made an emergency run to the store. Pretty soon I had a care package of Jell-O, Gatorade, bananas, and chicken soup on my doorstep.

In so many ways these women friends have taught me a lot: that girlfriends care for each other through thick and thin; that there is nothing like another woman to soothe you; that they will go to any lengths to help and listen; that we’re a sisterhood.

Maggy was right. How could I have doubted? I am not alone. It’s been almost three years since Paul died and they still call, text and come by. We laugh and I still mention him but mostly we chat about their lives and my new life. They helped me move forward in a positive way. My recovery has been so much better because of my friends. When the time comes I will be there for them too, because that is what girlfriends do.

~Sallie A. Rodman

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