Saturday, August 16, 2008

Leaving Footprints on My Heart

"Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart"
— Eleanor Roosevelt

One of the most significant blessings we have received from Christopher's premature birth and long hospitalization, followed by our long involvement in providing family support in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) through the nonprofit group Precious Beginnings, has been the opportunity to meet some truly amazing, phenomenal people. We have formed close friendships with other parents who have parented NICU babies, some of whom survived and others who died. When we experienced our own perinatal losses through the many miscarriages, these friends were rock solid and provided a level of understanding so hard to find elsewhere.

We bonded even more over the very sudden loss of an angelic 4-1/2-year-old named Zacary, who was the son of a Precious Beginnings family, and our subsequent support of his parents.

My friends Kristin, Catherine, and I would spend several-hour-long lunches and leisurely chats whenever we could squeeze it into our schedule, sadly not often enough. When Kristin and I were co-presidents of Precious Beginnings, she would often give me a ride to board meetings, and upon arriving at my house, we would linger in her car talking as long as we could.

Three years ago Kristin moved to to take a new position as a professor at the nursing school at University of Wisconsin-Madison. So many times in my life I've said goodbye to cherished friends, and this was a very, very difficult goodbye. Since she moved, her work schedule has become intense, and we have not talked nearly often enough during that period.

Then there's Catherine, who lives only 20 minutes away. Last October we had a wonderful dinner with Catherine and Doug for my birthday, and we all committed to each other that we would get together more often. However, it's 10 months later, and we have failed horribly! It's a classic example of taking advantage of what you have right in front of your face.

A few weeks ago Kristin and family visited Portland after 2 years away; the last time I saw her I was pregnant with Nicholas. Kristin, Catherine, and I had a fantastic "girls' night out" at Capitol Coffeehouse and Bistro, and then we had Kristin's family and Catherine over for a BBQ the following night. (Catherine's husband, Doug, and their sons were sadly unable to join us.)

Kristin, me, and Catherine after our leisurely dinner

After spending time with them, I had a renewed appreciation for my friendship with them--they are the types of friends with whom I can pick up from where I left off, even though I haven't seen them for months or years. The best way I can describe it is friends who "click."

As I get older, I am narrowing my circle of close friends to those whom I really enjoy and feed my soul.

In Japan around Valentine's Day, women traditionally give chocolates to the men in their lives for whom they have no romantic feelings; it's called "obligation chocolates." Much of Japanese life is geared around one's obligations, similar to the Catholic church and its "days of obligation." I've never had much tolerance for obligation...I would prefer to do things out of personal choice.

Life is too short to maintain "obligation" friendships or do anything solely out of obligation. I feel very blessed to have such wonderful friends, with whom every moment is treasured...and with whom I share a strong bond across the miles and in spite of intermittent contact. What a treat to share the pleasure of their company!!

Kieran and Kristin's son Jonah (who are 3 months apart;
we both had high-risk pregnancies together and
visited each other in the hospital after the births of our sons)

Kristin and Roger's preemie daughter Aimee, age 9

Dinner in our backyard--Catherine, Kristin, Roger, and Mike

Nicholas and his buddy Catherine--
she hadn't seen him since he was an infant,
but Nicholas IMMEDIATELY took to her!! (No surprise!)

Catherine and the kids (minus Kieran)

Roger, Nicholas, and "Chicken Dance Elmo"

Nicholas also took to Aimee--
the day after they left, he woke up saying "More Aimee!"

Here are some quotes that describe how I feel about friendship:

"A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you" — Elbert Hubbard

"I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light." — Helen Keller

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." — Anaïs Nin

"By chance we met, by choice we become friend" — Unknown

"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down." — Oprah Winfrey

"A friend is one before whom I may think aloud." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget. " — G. Randolf

"'She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.'" — Toni Morrison (Beloved)

"Friends are like bras: close to your heart, and always there for support!" — Anonymous

"A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away." — George Eliot

"What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it." — C. S. Lewis

"Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 'Pooh?' he whispered. 'Yes, Piglet?' 'Nothing,' said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. 'I just wanted to be sure of you.'" — A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

"There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature." — Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey)

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