From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

A Friend, Indeed

The hearts that never lean, must fall.

Emily Dickinson

It was three in the morning. Rolling over in bed, I reached for the ringing telephone. Instinctively, I knew who it was—who else would be calling at this hour? I had been expecting this call but why did it have to come when I was alone? My husband had just left for the east coast on business eight hours earlier. How would I get in touch with him? I picked up the telephone and heard my mother’s voice gently come through the receiver: “Honey, Dad’s gone.” As if she could read my mind, she quickly assured me that he had not been alone and he had died peacefully.

I assured my mother I would leave for home first thing in the morning but I had to go to work first and reschedule my patients. I hung up the telephone and pulled the covers up. I would let my daughters sleep while I started gathering our things together for the twelve-hour trip home.

I had not turned on the bedside lamp. The house was quiet and dark. I lay in bed thinking about my father’s seven-year battle with cancer and what he had taught me. He had said, “When the treatment becomes worse than the disease, it is time to rethink your plan of action.” Only one week earlier, I had been at his bedside. I found myself wanting to ensure that those caring for him understood that he was not an old man, but one about to celebrate his fifty-eighth birthday. As a birthday gift, I placed a picture of my father, taken a year earlier, in a frame that had the poem “Footprints” on it. I remember thinking, This picture looks like a fifty-seven-year-old man. I looked at the poem. How could I trust God to carry my father if I would not release him to God’s care?

The telephone call had been no surprise. I had been holding on to my father and was finally able to entrust him to God, the true healer. Lying in my bed, I silently prayed for any sign to let me know Dad was okay. Seeking reassurance, I drifted off. I was back in my childhood house. My bedroom window was open, allowing the night breeze to blow across my room. I snuggled up under my quilts. I felt warm and safe. I could see my father standing at the foot of my bed. He was checking to see if I was all right before going to bed himself.

As I awoke, I felt a peace flow over me and knew my father was all right. I realized he would always be looking over me. I turned on the lamp and started gathering my things. Dawn came, and I sat down with my daughters. I shared the news of their grandfather’s death, trying to ensure that they felt my strength and love enveloping them. I called my friend Carolyne, a fellow visiting nurse, trying to give her a heads-up that I was preparing to go out of town and would be at work to make the appropriate arrangements. Carolyne and I had become good friends as a result of all we did together: working, attending college classes and going to church. Few words were needed for me to inform her of my plan to drive home.

When I reached the office, I realized my coworkers were all aware of my situation and my patients were already reassigned to other nurses. Carolyne proceeded to tell me she had a bag packed and would be driving with me to Washington. Her mother had arranged a return flight for the following day and our supervisor had given her the time off. I was overwhelmed by this generous offer, but I could not ask her to do this. In addition, I knew I would be going straight to my parents’ house, which would be filled with family. Where would Carolyne stay? Carolyne told me to call my mother. I made the call so I could graciously say “No thank you” to Carolyne’s kind offer. As I spoke to my mother, she breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I would not be alone on the icy roads.

My daughters, Carolyne and I drove straight through to my parents’ house. My friend listened as my daughters and I told stories celebrating my father’s life. The twelve-hour trip over the mountains went safely and quickly. The healing had begun.

Upon our arrival, my mother’s gratitude for our safe arrival was evident. Carolyne was welcomed and thanked profusely. The house was filling up, and Carolyne and I wound up sharing my parents’ bed. As we ended our day in prayer and closed our eyes, Carolyne sensed I needed my husband and reassured me that he would be joining me shortly. I smiled to myself knowing this special friend had been sent to carry me when I most needed support.

In the morning, I drove my friend to the airport. She refused my multiple offers to reimburse the cost of her airfare. Instead, she asked me to accept this gift of friendship.

As I drove back to my parents’ house, I felt overwhelmed by the goodness of this woman. She had given me a gift that my family and I would never forget.

It has been ten years since my father passed away, and he continues to look over me. Carolyne has become my best friend. We continue to share our love of God, family and nursing. She knows me as few people do, and a special connection and trust exists between us. People often ask if we are sisters. Maybe we are, because there is no doubt in my mind that she is family and my sister in Christ.

Vivia M. Peterson

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