Monday, April 7, 2014

That's What Friends Are For

I have always been fortunate enough to have good friends.  A good friendship takes a lot of work but if done right, it does not feel like work at all.

When Allie died, I was 3 weeks from my due date.  When Gary made the calls that I was in the hospital, many people jumped to the conclusion that she was born early.  Not that I was about to be induced and that she was to be born still.  The outpouring of love and affection and support that we received was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  And far more than I ever expected.  Call after call, Gary told our friends and family to stay home and call after call was met with,"What hospital?" and "We are on our way".

I never left the room and I allowed very few people up to see me.  Gary was my strength and my rock and he would go report in to everyone with the latest information and come back to tell me that our friends and family had pretty much taken over the whole waiting room of the hospital.  I was not at all surprised.

Many people did not know what to say.  So they just sat there in case we needed them.  They told stories and supported each other and I think created some bonds that are stronger now having lived through such a horror together.

That's what friends do.  That's what friends are for.

When Miranda was born, we could not have people come to the hospital because that time was really M's.  It was her time to say hello and goodbye to the child she carried and delivered and as hard as it was for us, it was just not about us.  Having so many awful memories of the maternity ward and Labor & Delivery in general, I was ok with it just being Gary and me.  I also knew that once the baby was discharged to our care, we would have her forever so it was ok to share her with M those first 2 days.  Hard as hell, but ok.

We stayed in a hotel in Delaware until we could come home.  It was the middle of the week.  We were a good hour away.  And yet they came. They came to finally celebrate with us.  We had friends come for lunch and friends come for dinner and friends come to drop by just for a little bit to say hello and meet our daughter.  The hotel room was packed with diapers and toys and blankets and clothes and all sorts of things that we brought as we had no idea what we needed!  And in the empty spaces were our friends.  They are always with us, no matter what.

This past Saturday was Miranda's 1st birthday party.  Originally family only, until I realized how many people I hurt by not including them.  They wanted to celebrate our joy...our rainbow.  They wanted to search for the perfect gift for her and get together and watch her eat her first bit of cake. I realized that it was unfair to deny them that and unfair to deny us that!  So we opened up the house and they descended.  And it was wonderful.  There was so much laughter and love and light and it was everything I could have hoped for and then some. 
 



The next day, was a different type of party. It was a farewell to my dad.

He left explicit instructions to not be sad and macabre.  He wanted a celebration of his life and that is what we gave him.  There was a short graveside service which was just wonderful.  The rabbi that led the service did not know my dad and yet he spoke of him like he knew him.  It was a sunny and bright day and Spring was in the air.  Being there felt more like a beginning than and end.

I was told there were 69 people at the cemetery.  If you take into account the my dad's dementia really took a turn for the worse in 2008-2009, that's 5-6 years where many of his friends had not heard from him.  He kind of fell off the grid so to speak.  And yet when they got the call that he had died or when they saw the obit in the paper, the got in their cars and came.  Many caught flights to come pay their respects.  At the end of the day,  my dad's friends were there to help celebrate the man he once was.

There were 55 people at a luncheon in his honor.  Former boy scouts.  Friends from the Army Reserves.  His chiropractor.  Many friends from his antique car club.  People from all walks of his life.

Gary created a big poster with many of his images on it proudly displayed for all to see.  We had opera music playing from a little stereo.  We had his high school year book and some photo albums.  And we had a microphone.


We spoke in "birth order" so I went first.  Just in case no one there knew I was the oldest!  Then each of my brothers spoke.  Each of us highlighted dad in our own unique way.  Then my dad's lover and friend of many many years.  Then we broke for food.  Then a few more friends got up and spoke.  It was poignant and funny and sad and lovely all at the same time.  He would have loved it.  All of those people that came out for him.  For me.  For my brothers. For my family.  It was just beautiful.

At the end of the weekend, I was exhausted.  A day later and I am still exhausted.  But even stronger than my fatigue is the overwhelming feeling of gratitude I have for the people that have stuck my by side through the best of times and the absolute worst of times. To look around my house on Saturday and see all the love and then to look past the grief yesterday and see all the support - well, it was nothing short of amazing.

My friends are my family and my family are my friends.  And I am so damn lucky for both.

"Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That's what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends are for"

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