Is there anything more difficult than maintaining healthy personal relationships? And are there any relationships more complicated or more of a blessing than female friendships? My sharing about Dolores would not be complete unless I relate two very different stories about how she blessed me with examples of being a friend, in good times and bad.
In the years following my divorce, Dolores and I often discussed the saying “Once burned, twice shy.” I told her I never wanted to marry again. In her usual manner, she listened and then said I might change my mind if I met the right man. Still, I was full of uncertainty and skepticism during my courtship with my current husband. When Dolores and Trevor met Keith, they welcomed him into the family as if we were already married. There was an instant D&T stamp of approval. Did they know something I didn’t? Dolores’s eyes twinkled as if she had discovered a treasure chest full of gold. I could almost hear her thinking, “Now this is more like it.” She was right, of course. He truly is a treasure, and she saw it before I did. She never pushed, preached or offered advice. Instead she waited, prayed, and rejoiced when God revealed His plan for Keith and I to wed.
Over the next several years, she and Trevor brought Keith into the fold (as it were) and treated him with great love, tenderness and respect. They never stopped telling him how grateful they were for the love and care he showered on their adopted daughter. They truly felt and demonstrated joy at my newfound happiness in this – the best of times.
Dolores taught me that true friends rejoice in each others’ happiness and never feel cheated or competitive because friends have found joy and fulfillment. This is an area where people can fall short because we often are trained (especially in the American culture) to be competitive and “better than,” from day one. It can be a struggle to change this pattern.
Keith and I visited Dolores and Trevor as often as we could, even though separated by over 200 miles. During one of our visits, I was particularly sad and tearful. When we got some time alone, I confided in Dolores that a friend of mine had lost her baby girl only hours after delivery. I knew it was safe here to talk about the unfairness and to ask how God could allow such things to happen. I did not know what to do, and I pleaded with her to help me find a way to help my friend get through this.
Dolores took my hand and told me she lost her first born son five weeks after his birth. I had no idea. We had never spoken of this. It was my turn to hold her as she cried and remembered this loss afresh. In the conversation, she shared with me one of the most valuable lessons I will ever learn about female friendship in times of crisis.
She told me there really was not a lot I could do for my friend to make it “better,” but there were several things I should not do. She said:
Do not tell her you know how she feels because you do not.
Do not remind her she has other children, and she should concentrate on them.
Do not tell her she is young and can have more children – no person ever replaces another person.
Do not hesitate to be by her side when she needs to cry, rant, blame, or pray. Don’t preach, just listen.
Do not dishonor her need to be alone some days even though you want to be with her.
Do not be offended when she blames God and refuses to seek His counsel. And never say this is God’s will.
Do not be impatient if she does not “get over it,” because she will never get over it. Time will lessen the intensity of the loss on some days. People who try to hurry her grieving process are attempting to find a way around the pain and sadness they feel. But her true friends will stand with her in the pain, patiently and lovingly, with no regard for their own discomfort.
Do not cease praying for her every time she comes to mind. And Laura, never give up on the God who holds her gently and tenderly in His own hands.
I tried hard to follow this advice and to learn it well. As it turns out, this was one of several women I have stood with in the tragedy of losing a child. And each time, I have relied on the teachings shared by my friend through tears of validity. She taught me to stand with my friend, respect and honor her wishes instead of finding a way to run from my own pain. She showed me how important it was to offer my silent understanding as assurance of my friendship and love in this – the worst of times.
Copyright July 2011
Lakewood, CO 80401