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Sharon Randall: The gift of old friends

By Sharon Randall

Growing up, I would hear old people say, “There’s no friend like an old friend.”

I thought they said it because they were old and young people made them feel older.

Now that I am one of them, I know that’s why they said it. Most of us would prefer to be with people who make us feel younger, not older — or at least, more alive than half-dead.

But feeling young and alive is not really about age. It’s about attitude and openness and a healthy sense of humor. And maybe a decent night’s sleep.

Friendship transcends age. The years between us make no difference. But time itself — how long we’ve been friends and the memories we share — is the glue that strengthens our bond.

Recently, I attended a reunion for a church youth ministry that over the years — thanks to the grace of God and the heart of a gifted pastor — drew young people together like bees to honey in a hive of faith.

My late husband and I, who weren’t much older than some of those kids, had only minor roles: He played guitar at their meetings. I set and cleared the table in our dining room for their weekly potlucks.

Mostly, our job was just to pray, in any way we felt led to do so, and to open our home and our hearts to young people who needed, as we all do, a friend.

For the record, I also baked a lot of brownies. And ate more than my share. Some are known for wisdom. I was known for chocolate. In the end, as it often happens when we become part of something bigger than ourselves, the blessing was ours.

Our lives were enriched, our faith was deepened, our hearts were forever marked by the kids who came through our door.

I could hardly wait to see them again — especially those I’d not seen since my late husband’s memorial service 20 years ago.

Have you ever noticed that people tend to age over time? Some more than others. None of us were kids any more. But when we looked into each other’s eyes and felt the warmth in our hugs, time slipped away, as if we’d never been apart.

We spent the evening catching up, laughing and telling stories, remembering each other, as well as others who would’ve been there if they could be, and who were, in fact, with us in spirit.

It was such a gift.

A few days later, I opened my door to two old friends I have known for almost 50 years.

Never mind how old we were when we met. Suffice it to say, we know each other well.

Steve and my late husband taught high school together and ran miles together after school. Maribeth and I were like sisters, and moms to each other’s kids.

They stood by me and my children through my husband’s illness and death. When I remarried, they acted as if they liked my new husband more than they liked me. I’m not entirely sure it was an act.

We’ve shared Thanksgiving dinners, leaky tents in the rain and a lifetime of memories that we revisit every chance we get.

If you could pick just two friends for life, you’d be smart to pick people like Maribeth and Steve. We live 500 miles apart but see each other when we can. Each time I’m with them, it gets harder to say goodbye.

Old friends remember what you were like when you were young and don’t hold it against you. They forgive your mistakes, put up with your flaws and love the person you’ve become, even if you don’t keep in touch with them as well as you should.

They edit your stories (“I never said that!”) and you edit theirs (“Yes, you did!”) and the truth shines somewhere between you.

They see themselves reflected in your eyes and realize that they have never looked better.

It’s true. There is no friend like an old friend. Especially when you know, come what may, life or death, hell or high water, in this world or the next, you will still be old friends forever.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394 Henderson, NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.

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