This is for my dear friend, Valerie, who celebrates her birthday today. It isn’t a special, milestone birthday in the greater cultural sense. It’s one of those, “let’s celebrate this one with wine and cake” kind of birthday. But even though she is far away, I thought she may appreciate a gift of gratitude for the gift of God she has been to me.
I should say this first: I don’t make real, lasting friends easily. I put a lot of barriers in the way that preclude me from a sorority-like gaggle of women friends. I am friendly, but this dear friend is no acquaintance. We met at college 23 years ago. She is more loving and kind than I, but with a wicked sense of humor that inclined me to feel comfortable around her. She has loved me when I have been quite unlovable. She has not lost faith in me when I have made poor decisions.We physically see each other seldom, but fall immediately into step when we finally occupy the same space. We have been at important events in one another’s lives- graduations, ordinations, etc. I still want things for her that exasperate her- because she has everything in her life that she truly needs- and she somehow tolerates my continued asking.
I have often thought that perhaps we could have benefited from one of those oaths where you draw blood and grasp the hand of your partner, ensuring that secrets will stay secret; because she knows things about me that should remain unsaid. However oaths are only needed for those you don’t trust and I trust her implicitly. There are times I worry that she may not feel she can confide in me like we used to do so many years ago, but I know that in day to day life such conversations are quite rare. Please know, dear friend, I am here at all times.
Let me say before I close: I love you. You are in person the equivalent of a soft blanket, straight from the dryer: warm, comforting and sweet. You give of yourself until there is barely a drop left, and then you squeeze more. You are talented and humble, you value people with more depth than anyone can realize and you truly embody the beautiful nature of Christ. You do this, and so much more, with a human edge and some crazy humor.
Today, I say a prayer of thanks to God for your generosity of spirit, your compassion, your patience and your loving friendship. Thank you for not abandoning me when time lapses, loving me flawed & floundering and always seeing beauty in the world. I pray this year will bring you hundred fold the joy you share with others, without expectation.
Happy Birthday, old and dear, Friend.