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Shinn column: Holding hands and hearts

The first thing I did when I met my best friend Carol was to hold her hand.
I was still 4. She had already turned 5.
Her father had just come to our church as pastor, and the first time I saw her was in the fellowship hall one Sunday morning.
After the family had been introduced, I took Carol’s hand and led her upstairs to Sunday school.
In a few moments, we were best friends.
We have been best friends ever since.
Sometimes you just need someone to hold your hand, either literally or figuratively.
We’ve done that a lot over the years.
I don’t know how many times I’ve called Carol over the years, whining or complaining about this or that or the other. No matter how serious or how trivial the matter ó like for example, what am I gonna wear??? ó Carol always seems to know what to say or do. She’s just that kind of person.
We have been crazily, insanely silly at times ó just ask our mothers ó but we’ve shared heartaches, too.
There was one time in college when Carol went through a particularly bad breakup. She came home on school break, determined she wasn’t going back, that she would just let her mom and dad take care of her.
I can still remember us lying on the sofa and crying.
If one of us cries, the other cries. If one of us hurts, the other hurts.
It’s been that way with my other best friends, too.
I remember once I got a really bad haircut right before Lisa was getting married, and I was to be a bridesmaid. It was so bad that I stayed home from church.
Libby came by to see me afterward. She was crying because her first marriage had broken up. I was crying because of the haircut, and then I started to cry harder because Libby was crying.
Then we started laughing, standing out there in the driveway, at how ridiculous we must’ve looked.
Jennifer held my hair for me in the bathroom after one particularly long night at the end of my marriage. Truly, there’s no better friend than one who will stay with you while you throw up.
Now I want to reach out to her, because she’s recently lost her beloved mother-in-law.
This past fall, Lisa had a particularly long stay in the hospital, followed by surgery. Lisa is another friend who’s true blue in any circumstance. That morning, I wanted nothing more than to see her, to kiss her forehead and to stroke her hand for just a minute.
It was enough.
I was reminded of all that the other night at Carol’s church. We were watching the youth group perform a song under the blacklight.
We sat in total darkness. When their white-gloved hands formed ocean waves in perfect synchronization, I heard Carol gasp. I knew she was crying. I reached out to the row behind me, and I held her hand.

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