“It’s a Long Way to go for a Friend” Guest Post by Pauline Brown

I’m so happy to feature my mom today in this post on friendship. You can read more about my mom here and here. She is a gifted, amazing woman, the author of the books Jars of Clay ordinary Christians on an Extraordinay Journey in Pakistsn and Cat Tales and has modeled friendship well through the years. Enjoy this piece on friendship and please add your thoughts in the comment section.

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Friendship across miles & years. From left to right Margie Mills, Janet Wachter, Pauline Brown, Marilyn Gardner, Bettie Addleton, Joy Breithaupt
Friendship across miles & years. From left to right Margie Mills, Janet Wachter, Pauline Brown, Marilyn Gardner, Bettie Addleton, Joy Breithaupt

It was a long way to drive for a friend.  Can we do it?  Should we? 

We got the phone message after church that Sunday from a funeral director in my home town. Our friend Phil had died, and Phyllis, his widow, wanted Ralph to come and officiate at the funeral the following Wednesday.  We talked it through – it would mean driving the whole day Tuesday and back on Thursday from western New York to central Massachusetts.  And we’re not as young as we used to be…

This started me thinking about the whole idea of friends and friendship. Just what is it that makes an acquaintance into a friend? Some never make it. They come into our lives and fade away and we barely remember them.  For most it takes time and sharing life’s experiences. Then, rarely, we meet a special person who becomes an instant kindred spirit friend.

Some are friends from childhood and teen years. For those of us who have moved far from our birthplaces only a few of these will last through years of geographical separation.  I have a love/hate relationship with social media, but its great blessing among a few others is the way we can reconnect with people from our past.  Not long ago I received an email from one of the few friends left from my High School class.  Joan had persevered with her daughter’s help in searching me out after losing my email address. We talked on the phone and she updated me on news from Mary Lou and Jessie, who moved to our town when I was in grade school and from the other Polly, a girl I had known perhaps from the age of four when I started going to Sunday School.

When my family moved across town in my ninth grade year,I started walking to High School with Joan, along with her cousin Gaynor and Lucilla. Lu came by my house and we walked together to where we met the other two. In those early morning walks and occasionally in the evening we talked about life and boys and teachers and the world’s problems. We worried and prayed as older boys were leaving school to fight in World War II. Then it all came really close to home when boys in our class started leaving. After graduation Lucilla and I worked together for the summer at two different jobs, but that would make another whole story. We went our separate ways to college and marriage. We moved overseas and she lived in Pennsylvania. A few years ago she died quite suddenly, and although we hadn’t seen each other often, I realized how much I would miss her. Joan was the one who called to tell me, and Ralph and I went with Joan to her graveside service in the Catholic cemetery in my home town.

There are those special friends I keep in touch with from my four years at Gordon College. Bev phones a couple of times a year, and we get together with her and her husband Don when we’re in their area once a year or so.  I called Maggie last summer when we were driving to Massachusetts to spend July 4 with Marilyn and her family. “I thought I’d be hearing from you,” she said. “It’s that time when you usually come through.”  We went out to lunch together, and it was as if no time had lapsed since our last meeting a whole year before. Others we only hear from at Christmas time, but I love our holiday mail.

Some of the richest friendships are with those people we lived and worked with in our years in Pakistan. Many were with the same mission, and we became like family with all our quirks and idiosyncrasies.  There are Ray and Jean;and Shirley, whose husband Warren has gone to be with Lord. We shared a tiny house with these two couples when we first moved to Pakistan.  Living that way for nearly 3 months with five kids under five and only two bedrooms, a shared kitchen in a corner of the verandah, it’s quite an amazing gift of God’s grace that we remained close friends.  Then I think of Bettie and Hu and all we shared through the years. Hu pulled our oldest son out of a muddy canal saving Ed’s life. When Hu and Bettie’s two sons visited us one year when we were in the USA, Marilyn, then in high school, told me, “I didn’t know whether to introduce them as my best friend’s brothers or my brothers’ best friends!” Phyllis and Hannah and Dr. Mary, are single women who gave themselves to serve the medical needs of the women and children of Sindh. These, among others, I count as special friends.

Not all our friends in Pakistan were from our mission family or from our generation.  We were blessed with many from other missions and countries and denominations.  Occasionally one turned into a friend from an unlikely beginning.  I never expected to call Ruth a friend.  She scared me.  She had strong opinions and she wasn’t shy about voicing them.  Then she dropped in on me one day in Murree when I was sewing name tags on Ed’s clothes, getting him ready for boarding school.  Ruth pulled a chair over next to me picked up a spare needle and started helping me.  We talked that day, and shared how hard it was to be sending our kids away at such a young age.  Ruth shared a verse from Isaiah 54:13 that God had given to her for her children:  “All your children will be taught of the Lord and great will be the peace of your children.”  I took that as a gift that day, and have prayed it ever since for our children, then their wives and husband, and our seventeen grandchildren, now our great grands.  That was the day the woman whom I never thought I would call a friend, became so special to me.

One thing that stands out in all these special relationships – we seem able to drop right back into a genuine intimacy no matter how much time has passed.  I never hear a word of criticism nor do I voice any:  “Why haven’t I heard from you?” Or “why don’t you call more often?”  We just accept the special gift of whatever time we have and get on with catching up on the news.  Friendship involves a special kind of love and when such a relationship lasts for decades it is very much about grace, that acceptance that says without words, I know you, we know each other with all the good and the bad, the strength and the weakness,  I’m just so happy to be able to be with you, and let’s do it again – sooner!

So we did it for our friends, Phil and Phyllis, remembering a good man, a funny man who always had a story.  “Stop me if I’ve told you this before” but no one ever stopped him.  He was our friend so we drove to Massachusetts on Tuesday, shared with his family and friends at his service, and drove back on Wednesday, tired, very tired, but knowing we had been blessed in Phil’s life by a very special friendship.

13 thoughts on ““It’s a Long Way to go for a Friend” Guest Post by Pauline Brown

  1. Thank you so much, Mrs. Brown, for this beautifully written and insightful commentary on friendship in its myriad forms. I could see some of my own friends in your lovely words and felt renewed gratitude for each of them! One of the best parts of Marilyn’s blog is the opportunity to read your frequent thought-full and wise comments. Whenever I see “Marilyn’s Mom,” I pay attention!

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    1. Cathy, thank you for these kind words! The older I get the less wise I feel and sometimes think I am too quick to comment. Also the older I get the more I appreciate the friends I have been blessed with, realizing they love me even though they really know me! I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment sooner. Just today decided to look back and see if there were any I had missed. So glad I did! Blessings on you, my dear.

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  2. Thanks for the great post! I cherish my friends that I am not near to and know that yes it’s a long way to go for a friend but that’s what you do.

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    1. Thank you, Jill for commenting, and for your kind words. We are truly rich in the people that God has put into our lives at various stages, and I am amazed at the long lasting quality of some of these friendships. Blessings!

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  3. This brought tears to my eyes! I, too, am blessed to have many friends around the world and, you are so right, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been with the best friends; we pick up again like no time has passed. I am so sorry to hear of your loss but glad you were able to make the trip to be with your friend and her family.

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    1. Thank you, Stacy. Yes, Phil’s death is a loss to his family and his many friends. He lived his whole life in the same small town. At the age I have attained, I wonder if perhaps we have more friends in heaven than here. I haven’t counted! We moved here two years ago, and we are slowly making new friends. It becomes a slower process since we are not as active as we used to be. Thanks for your comments.

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  4. Thanks Polly for voicing so many of my own thoughts as we moved across the country 4 times often leaving dear friends behind. Miles cannot separate friends of the heart! Now we have family at a distance and the miles seem harder esp with the little ones coming along and growing too quickly!

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    1. Nancy, I saw that you shared this on fb. I feel honored and thankful for being able to share my thoughts on friends. We are rich beyond measure in the people God has put into our lives at various times and places, and we thank him for you, too. Blessings on you and John.

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  5. Thanks Polly for reminding us of the treasures we have in true friendships. The best investment we can make in life is that of cultivating and maintaining those friendships.

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    1. Thank you, Bettie for commenting. You and Hu are among our most special friends, and we have enjoyed your fantastic gift of hospitality so many times. I remember driving to Shikarpur when we were living as the only foreigners in Ratodero and coming unannounced to your door. You probably had a busy day planned, but we never knew. You welcomed us as if you had expected us and we returned home late in the day refreshed by our time with you. It meant so much to us that we could do that.

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