by Judy Allen
Some friendships last forever; others endure for a brief time. Friendships, no matter how long they last, are a gift. Relationships have been on my mind, because I recently lost a good friend.
She was a Hilltopper, which is a group of 12 women who shared an apartment in college called, you guessed it, Hilltop. We thought it was fabulously fun, and we didn’t mind that it was a nasty, dumpy fire trap. Now we live in places from Seattle to Pennsylvania – thankfully our housing facilities have greatly improved – and we get together once a year for a long weekend.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were living in Hilltop and our worries were primarily about upcoming tests, finding a fourth for Euchre, and the all-important weekend plans. We graduated, launched our adult lives, got jobs and got married, bought houses, had children, and somehow suddenly we are in the second half of life.
Of course, I knew we would age, but my head was firmly stuck in the sand and I hadn’t given much thought to our mortality. Until this. There were several days of text messages, photos posted on Facebook, travel arrangements to the funeral, and tears. Her death shook me.
No doubt, this type of event will be more frequent in the years to come. Strong friendships are a mixed blessing. The closer we have been to our friends the more we miss them when they’re gone.
Friendships that have lasted through the first half of life tend to be more robust during the second half. All of us have been through troubles. No one has escaped pain. Now when we communicate, in our private Facebook group, the content has become celebrations of major life events and prayer requests, with a humorous meme thrown in regularly. Weddings, grandchildren, and vacations are interspersed among prayer requests for illness, job difficulties, and loved ones. The balance is shifting more toward prayer.
It’s a good representation of life at this stage; sublime joy and significant challenge.
Our first reunion weekend twenty years ago was in Kiawah Island, and I can’t even remember the challenges that we were facing then. We were healthy and busy with life. All twelve of us returned to Kiawah Island last September. We had a fabulous time reminiscing and laughing; a lot of laughing. By this time some of us had been through health challenges, and we all joked about our aches and pains, but we were still busy with life.
We are all so glad that we made that trip a priority. Our friend had been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease a few years earlier, so we especially valued the time spent with her. The disease was beginning to show its effects, but she was very much herself.
We knew her when her essence was still emerging, and we saw her become more fully who she always was.
I am increasingly grateful for lifelong friendships. In those carefree college days we had no idea that the investment we were making in meaningful relationships would pay substantial dividends in the future.
Spiritual growth was not high on my priority list as a college student. It should have been, but I was busy learning, having a wonderful time and staring wide-eyed at the world in which I would soon make my way. For years, my communication with the Hilltoppers was a Christmas card and the occasional gathering. But now as we share prayer requests on our instant access Facebook group we are uniting around each other, and most importantly we are looking to Jesus Christ for help.
In Jesus Christ these friendships, long lasting as they are on this earth, are forever. It is beyond my imagination what dividends close friendships will deliver throughout eternity.
Judy Allen is an Area Director with Community Bible Study, and she also writes and speaks with the goal of making the transformative truth of Jesus Christ more impactful in our daily lives. She blogs at connectingdotstogod.com and lives in the Chicago area with her husband and best friend, Dan.