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Sharon Randall: The final stage of maturity

By Sharon Randall

A nonscientific study of the adult years of maturation reveals three key stages:

• Finding one’s identity.

• Finding one’s purpose.

• Finding one’s lost keys.

The first two stages can be challenging at best. The third (which also includes finding such things as eyeglasses, cellphones, coffee cups, purses, TV remotes, and, God forbid, the place where you last parked your car) can seem like a never-ending nightmare.

We met long ago in church one Sunday morning. Never mind what year. Richard Nixon was president. The Giants were battling the stinkin’ Dodgers for first place in the National League West. And I was pregnant with my first child.

I liked her from the start for her warmth, her smile, her caring heart and her obvious intelligence. She asked the kinds of questions I would ask, if I were smart enough to think of them.

But I had no clue that day about the kind of friendship we would forge, or all the years and tears and laughter we’d share.

Isn’t that the fun of meeting people? You never know how a stranger might enrich your life.

We were friends through good times and bad, defining and refining who we were and how we wanted to live our lives. We were daughters, sisters, wives, mothers and volunteers. We opened our homes and our hearts to host Bible studies and youth groups and potlucks, and we welcomed teenagers who needed a safe place to stay for a night, or maybe, a lot longer.

In time, I’d land a job as a writer, and she would run an organization serving needy children in the community.

We were fortunate, she and I, to have all we needed, and to be in a place and time to help others in their need. It blessed and defined and exhausted and fulfilled us. And it gave us a whole lot to talk about.

We don’t see each other often. We have full lives and precious little time to spare. But when we get together, we talk about what matters most to us.

I wish you could hear us. Not what we say. But how we laugh.

I remember the day years ago when we sat at the beach and wept as she told me her marriage was ending.

And another dark day, some time later, when I called to tell her my husband had lost his four-year battle with cancer.

Last week, for the first time in too long, we met for dinner, two old friends, hungry for a good meal and a chance to catch up.

We ate and talked and laughed for hours. Then we hugged each other’s necks and headed out to the parking lot, where one of us could not find her keys.

It could’ve been me. It often is. But this time it was her.

She rummaged through her 40-pound purse (it’s almost as heavy as mine), muttering, “They have to be somewhere!”

I spent five minutes figuring out how to turn on the flashlight on my cellphone, then shined it in her purse, under the car and in the window, checking the seat, the floor and the ignition.

No keys.

“They have to be somewhere,” I said. “Did you leave them in the restaurant?”

She sighed. “I’ll go look.”

I got in my car and finally figured out how to shut off the stupid cellphone flashlight.

Suddenly, she came trotting back waving a handful of keys.

“Where were they?” I said.

“In my purse!” she said.

“Well,” I said, “we knew they had to be somewhere.”

Then we belly-laughed at what had been, only moments before, not the least bit funny.

Good friends do that a lot.

Someday, in our fourth and final stage of maturity, we’ll sit on the porch in heaven, rocking back and forth, on and off our rockers, laughing at all sorts of things that are not funny now.

And we will never, hallelujah, have to look for our keys.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, or www.sharonrandall.com.

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