This morning I found out that my childhood best friend lost her father yesterday. I haven’t stayed in close touch with Dawn over the years, but she was my best friend during the best years of my childhood. In the late 70s, we had moved from California to Little Rock, AR as a result of my dad’s job. Dawn was the first friend I made, and it seems we almost instantly became fast friends. We spent three years in Arkansas – just three years out of my 48 – but those three years were the best years of my childhood. Sometimes I think they were the best three years of my life. I was at an age where I was old enough to be allowed to go out, run around the neighborhood and woods, and play without supervision – living a tomboy’s dream. But I was young enough that I didn’t know all of the bad things that could happen or were going on in the world. There was a lot of upheaval, as there always is in life, and yet for me, none really existed. It was just a great time in a great place with the best of friends.
Dawn and I both had a strong tomboy spirit. We didn’t mind getting dirty and we played football and all kinds of other sports. We even competed together against a bunch of boys in a Punt, Pass and Kick competition. I’m pretty competitive, and so was Dawn, so when she beat me in that competition, I wasn’t real happy about it. What I was happy about was that she and I took 1st and 2nd place in a competition in which we were the only girls. It’s one of my great memories, and the truth is we were girls who could kick butt!
Dawn had an amazing family. She had the most beautiful mom of any friend I ever had. She was stunning, and she was kind. I didn’t spend much time with Dawn’s dad. I dare say, he probably didn’t even remember me after a number of years went by, but I remembered him. I remembered the family he led and raised, of his influence on his family and what wonderful people they all were as a result. Over the years after we moved back to CA, I lost touch with Dawn until 16 years later when we reconnected. We spoke on the phone and said we would stay in touch, but then like most people do, we got busy with our lives and lost touch again. It would be another 12 years or so before we eventually reconnected on Facebook, and in doing so have been able to keep up with each other’s lives even though we haven’t seen each other in more than 30 years, nor have we spoken voice-to-voice since that day in 1996. Facebook can be a curse sometimes, but in circumstances like this, it is a blessing beyond belief!
So this morning, when I found out about her dad’s passing, I was surprised at how it affected me. I just sat there and cried and cried, brokenhearted for her, her mom and her family. I’ve experienced a lot of loss in life, and I’m always touched and have deep sympathies for the loved ones that are left behind, but this was different. Maybe it’s because I’m dealing with my own aging parents and the health struggles they endure. That is a reality my generation is now facing with our parents, aunts and uncles. We don’t like to think about the losses that may be coming in our own lives, so it hits us harder when that reality is right in front of us. But it is more than just that piece. This loss affected someone incredibly important to me, with whom I have such a deep connection in my heart and spirit. Someone whose friendship I have carried with me and inside my heart all these years. This loss reminded me of something, and not just the truth of how painful loss can be. It reminded me of how special and uplifting true connections of the heart can be. It reminded me that when you love and care about someone, it transcends time, space, and circumstances. It makes them a special kind of chosen family. Our experiences with them shape our lives. They open a vault in our memory in which these experiences are placed, and it lasts forever. It preserves them forever.
Both Dawn and I have undoubtedly gone through many things in our lives that have been difficult to endure. Difficult losses or the challenges that come with day to day living. But you know what? She is my friend. In movie terms, she is my “Sandlot” friend, my “Stand By Me” friend. And today, she and her family are grieving. Today I weep and I grieve with them. I honor the life of my dear friend’s father and lift prayers for the entire family and all the friends whose lives he (and they) have touched.
So today, I want to remind you all to take a few moments and open the vault that contains all the memories of those meaningful relationships and amazing friendships you’ve had over the course of your life. If you are still in touch with them, remind them of how much they have meant to you and the difference they made in your life. If you have no idea where they are or what ever happened to them, stop and send up positive thoughts and prayers of gratitude for their role in your world.
The movie “Stand By Me” ends with the following words: “It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in restaurants. … I never had any friends later on like I the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
Much love and prayers for the Don Pucek family
And blessings to everyone.