Always and Forever

I’ve never believed that living in the past is a good thing.  It’s too easy to either wallow in nostalgia for “the good old days” or to get trapped into believing that we can never move on from a difficult or troubled history.  And if I’m honest, I also have to admit that most of the time it takes all my energy just to cope with the present and whatever happens to be going on in my life at this particular moment.  Which means that I don’t give all that much thought to my past as I muddle along in my day-to-day life.  Until, that is, something happens to make me stop and remember.

Last week, I learned that an old friend had entered into Hospice care after a prolonged illness.  Although we didn’t see much of each other in the past several years, she was someone I was quite close to when my children were young and the two of us were very active at our church.  I often relied on her advice, not only on how to be a good mother, but also on how to deal effectively and patiently with difficult personalities.  (I once heard someone refer to the two of us as, “the nice one and the bitchy one.”  And I wasn’t the one he was referring to as nice.)  Eventually, our lives took different paths and we became the kind of friends who didn’t make much effort to stay in touch, but who always found it easy to connect on the rare times we did get together.

Still, I was surprised at how much the news of her death hurt, and how many wonderful memories of our time together came flooding back. And then I realized that the strong relationships we form in our past can have a powerful effect on our lives for years afterwards.  Her friendship was not only a precious gift to me, it was also a part of my personal history, so the loss of my friend is still profound and the grief is still real.  I now know that true friendships are a life-long gift and need to be valued as such, no matter what the circumstances.

In this past year, I reconnected with an old college friend who I was dumb enough to lose touch with when she moved to another state.  She and her husband visited us twice, and we were instantly comfortable with each other, laughing and talking as freely as we did twenty years ago.  Words can’t express how grateful I am to be able to spend time with them again, and my husband and I are already planning a trip to visit them in the very near future.

I still don’t believe in living in the past.  But I have figured out that our personal histories, and the relationships we formed along our journey through life, have an enduring impact on who we are today.  Some of the relationships we had weren’t good for us, and we need to leave those behind.  But when we are lucky enough to find true friendship, we need to recognize it for exactly what it is:  a gift that is with us for life.

67 thoughts on “Always and Forever

  1. she didn’t last long in Hospice care…which is sad, since Hospice doesn’t seem to be used as it was meant to be – a way into accepting that death is coming, and what do you need to do to get ready. Recently had a friend die after 2 weeks in hospice, where the main goal was to be comfortable. An older family friend just died after 6-8 weeks in hospice, and the memories of those weeks will help his family. They were posting lots of photos on facebook — special concerts, visits with dear friends who made the trip while he was still alive, lots of videos coming from around the world…anyhow, just meant to comment that in one paragraph she had entered hospice, and the next paragraph she was dead…

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    • Yes, sadly, it was very quick and much quicker than anyone thought, which was sad for her family especially. My father-in-law was only in hospice one day. I’m glad for your family friend who was in in long enough for his family to adjust!

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  2. I don’t dwell too much in the past either in the sense of “what could have/should have been,” but my friendships from my past (all the way back to when I was about 1 or 2 years old) mean the world to me. I also have let go of a few friendships that I wish I still had… fortunately with social media, it can be pretty easy to reach out again. I’m so sorry about your friend.

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    • I know what you mean! I have two friends I met when our mothers plopped us down in the same play pens when we were babies, and that is a special kind of friendship. Other friends I have lost touch with, but later reconnected via Facebook, which is one of the reasons I stay on it despite all the annoying political and cutsie posts. I think learning to truly value our friends is a lesson that just gets stronger with time!

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    • You are so welcome. I know that losing this friend has made me even more grateful for the chance to reconnect with my college friend…and even more determined to make the effort to stay in touch, no matter what. I know my friend had a very good life, withe a loving family and many other good friends, but I still wish I had made more of an effort to be in touch with her these past few years. Because she was a wonderful person!

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    • Thank you! I didn’t mean to make this post so much about me, but I did learn from this not to wait until “later” to reach out to old friends. I know she knew how much I appreciated her…she was a wonderful person…but I really wish I had taken the time to let her know and stay in touch recently.

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  3. That old saying “better to have loved and lost than never loved at all”, must surely have some relevance here. You have precious memories, you have been enriched, even though now you are bereft. I’m sure you take comfort from that, and I imagine even your pain is a sad-happy reminder of her.

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    • You are so right! I do have memories, and the lessons she taught me. She was a both good and wise, and she was always ready to listen without judgment and to offer help when she could. I was lucky to have known her. Thanks, Terry!

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  4. Sorry to hear that your friend passed away Ann. It was the death of a friend that brought a couple we were previously close with back into our lives. It has been fun reconnecting with them – we just picked up where we left off 30 years ago!! PS. I can’t believe anyone ever considered you bitchy!!

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    • Thanks, Anne! I actually feel a bit guilty having people sympathize with me when her family are the ones who are feeling the strongest impact. She always put family first, and was a great example to the rest of us! I know what you mean, though, about it taking a loss to wake us up to the need to reconnect. It’s just sad that it takes so long, especially when realize how easily we pick right up where we left off!
      As for the person who described me as bitchy: it was actually our minister, who was introducing my friend and me to the new student minister! His exact words were, “Pat’s the nice one, and Ann’s the bitchy one.” Sure, he was telling the truth, but I thought, “couldn’t he just wait and let the student minister figure it out for herself?”

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  5. An excellent piece, Ann! It often seems the case that we need the perspective of time in order to realise the significance of things and how they’ve shaped our subsequent actions. I think this is a very good reason to always be very careful about the words we use, as their power can, and inevitably at times will, echo down through the years to come. All of us can recall seemingly innocuous little phrases that others have used deep in the past and which later proved to be far more influential than ever considered. A sensitively offered kind thought expressed to another may potentially have the power to transform. All of which begs the question of whether the past is really that, or if perhaps at times it carries forward into the present.

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    • I am beginning to believe that the past often carries forward into the present. I supposed the trick is learning which parts of the past to relinquish, and which parts to keep with us. Although in one way or another, everything we have experienced has helped shaped who we are today. Which is why, as you so rightly pointed out, that we need to be very careful about how we treat others. Because our words and actions become part of their personal history, and we want that to be a good thing, not a hindrance!

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  6. This was a beautifully thought about post giving real consideration to both your friend, your friendship and the impact it had had on your life. It’s always a good thing when something or someone makes us take time out to reflect as no part of our lives or people in them should be totally wiped out as they have all played a role in shaping the person we are today.

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    • Thank you! Reflecting on this whole situation has helped me realize how much of an impact this friend really had on my life. I always appreciated her, but I’m not sure I truly realized how much of a gift her friendship was. And I wanted a way to acknowledge that, rather than simply moving on. Because she deserved that, I think.

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    • Isn’t it? It’s like when I go back for a high school reunion. I graduated 40 years ago (gulp), but when I sit around with old classmates, there’s a level of comfort there that’s hard to explain. Even with the ones I didn’t know particularly well back then. I guess it’s just our shared history.

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  7. Your post on the past in general and on past friendships in particular was as if it was directly addressed to me. I struggled with similar problems. I lost a number of close friends, when I immigrated to Canada. Yet, dwelling too much in the past is not very productive and lets us become paralyzed and unfit to face the challenges of the presence. On the other hand we must not forget that the past is part of our identity and deserves consideration, as it helps us avoid in the presence mistakes that we deeply regret.

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  8. When the past becomes the present, it’s really a gift. This post was very interesting on some levels…you ‘bitchy’?? I can’t even begin to imagine? Your posts are always so positive and carefully phrased so not to offend. Picturing you being obnoxious seems out of the question Ann. And It’s also hard to see you not coping with the present. Guess I just imagine you being quite steady and coping quite well. Maybe you should write some crazy blog post so we can see that bitchy unsteady side of you one time?? 🙂

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    • Okay, just for you, I’ll do it! Ha! Actually, I can be just as bitchy as everyone else, but I do try to be positive in my blog posts. I guess I figure there are enough “rants” out there that I don’t need to add mine, and my hope is that each of my posts might offer something to someone that could be helpful.
      But trust me, when things aren’t going well and I’m tired and angry or very sad, I can bitch with the best of them! Thanks for having a better opinion of me, though…I really appreciate that!

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  9. This is so true Ann and old friends are a gift. I only have a handful of them in Sweden and we don’t chat often online but the few times I go over there we catch up and it’s a lot of fun. It is so good to have people in your life that remembers – you when you were young. Great post!

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    • Thank you so much! It is nice to have friends I’ve known all my life, and even better when I’ve kept in closes touch with them. I’m glad you make it to Sweden now and then to see your old friends!

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  10. I’m so very sorry for your loss, Ann! And at the same time I’m glad that you could renew your friendship with that other friend. It is strange how close together these things are… do you believe in coincidences or do you prefer to belief in fate? Either way things like these don’t seem to happen without a purpose.

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    • I’m honestly not sure if it is coincidence or fate, and I tend to believe in both. But it was definitely a matter of having two past friendships come back into my life at the same time, one in a good way, and the other in a very sad way. And the sad one made me appreciate the good one all the more, and resolve to stay in touch with my college friend.

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  11. I don’t believe of living in the past either. I consider “living in the past” to be where is keeps you from growing and moving on. Or when you just wallow in what was or what could have been. But looking back and reflecting on the past is ok – even if there is temporary wallowing :-), It is when we get stuck that it is not good – at least that is what I believe. I bet looking back even though the event that caused you to do so was sad, the remembering was nice.

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  12. Oh Ann, I’m so sorry for your loss. Time apart doesn’t make it any less painful, in fact I can imagine it might have the opposite effect bringing you back to the past and what you shared. Like you I prefer to focus on the present so I think it’s wonderful that you’ve reconnected with your other friend. Cherish what you have now, as I’m sure you do. A lovely bittersweet and poignant post.

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  13. Bomi and I were so happy to visit you guys and thank you so much for your hospitality and the great company! Really hoping you can visit here soon and I will always remember all of your help as I relocated to St. Louis and embarked on a teaching career (thanks to you at St. Gabe’s) that has now lasted over 30 years! So glad to have reconnected and looking forward to fun times ahead🌸

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    • We loved seeing you and Bomi again! Old friends really are the best! Your friendship means so much to me, and I love that all these years later, we still find it so easy to relate. (And frankly, I was thrilled when you moved to St. Louis!! And very happy that Bomi and Dave got along so well, and then the kids played together when they were young, so now we are family friends as well as “old college friends.”) We are hoping to come to visit near the end of May, but will check with you with dates soon. Because we are coming this Spring, you can count on that!

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  14. Sorry , sent too soon. Also wanted to mention how sorry I was to hear of your loss. As we get older, we lose people we love and it is so difficult. Hang in there.

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  15. I’m so very sorry about your friend, Ann. When anyone you care about dies it’s difficult, when it’s an old friend or family you lose a piece of your yourself. Whether we chose to remember the past in our daily lives or not, we can’t deny the fact that those who touched our lives affected us in ways we don’t understand or recognize until we’ve had time to reflect. Age helps with that process.
    God rest her soul.

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    • Oh George, you are so right! I kind of felt as if I didn’t have the right to grieve, since we haven’t been in close touch lately. But now I realize that even if she was a friend from my past, she was a very important part of my life, and that’s the loss that I am mourning. It really does take us a while to figure out how these things work, doesn’t it? And thanks for your kind words, they really mean a lot.

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