I had just finished writing a blog on friendship and was ready to publish, when I got the urge to take a break, so I jumped in my car and headed to a local park for some sunshine and “fresh breeze”. I noticed an elderly lady sitting alone on a bench with some crumpled tissues in her hand. I needed to catch my breath, so I sat down next to her. After a moment I asked “How’s it going”? Her reply started a conversation I will remember for a long time. She shared that she had recently lost her dearest friend in the whole wide world. I replied, “Would you like to tell me about her”? She smiled with tears in her eyes and said, “Indeed I would”
She began by saying her friend had been in her life from childhood with a few years of separation. She said that she knew they had a deep bond the first time they were apart for a number of years, then reconnected, and simply took up where they had left off, kind of like having a tea kettle sit dormant then hearing it”s whisle after minutes on the stove. What bonded them was a history of being each others playmates, sounding boards, cheerleaders, partners in crime, and sharing outlandish moments. They had shared secrets no one else was privy to. There was so much honesty between them that unless they were willing to hear the unvarnished truth they didn’t ask the question. They truly listened and heard what one another had to say, without judgement, or criticism. In a nut shell they appreciated, enjoyed and protected each other, warts and all. She smiled when she said “We reached levels of the highest form of communication, that is only allowed between very few in our lives”.
About that time a group of college aged kids walked by with their faces buried in their phones. She then shared that she was a university professor and taught classes in communication. She told me about a creative field trip she had just had with some of her graduate students. She took them to a special place where she had arranged the setting before hand. The students were told to pick a partner and go into one of the sound proof cubicles provided by the venue, without their phones or i-Pads, and share their thoughts on what they had learned so far in their college experience, then write a synopsis of what they shared. Immediately most of the students started hyperventilating , or having panic attacks, and one student actually passed out. Some were not able to pass the 30 minute mark. She shook her head with a sad look on her face. She said,” I think there are millions of empty shells walking around the streets pretending to be human. Talk about Artificial Intelligence. Artificial, yes, Intelligence,no. These young adults have no idea how to reach out and form friendships like my friend and I have”. She added, “I think the reason society is going down a rabbit hole is because they are in love with things and information that is not necessary truthful or real, and are scared to death of human interactions. I am sure my students promptly warned their friends to avoid my future classes, at all costs. When I told my friend about the field trip she said,”Leave it to you to ruffle some feathers”.
Her story took a cute turn. As her friend’s health began to decline, and travel was out of the question, because they were again living miles apart, they jumped into the Skype world. Recently they had what was to be a short visit via a video call. It lasted three and a half hours. They laughed, reminisced, and talked about memorable events in their shared past. They recalled an unforgettable experience that was very public, when one, acting as Matron of Honor, had fainted during the singing of the Lords Prayer during the others wedding. The best man, the grooms father, stepped around and grabbed the fallen soul under her arm pits, dragged her down 6 or 7 stairs and out of the view of the guests, then popped back to his place next to his son before the song had ended. During that Skype visit one even showed off a recent quilt she had just completed. It was apparent listening to her that they had this “Friendship thing” down pat. They clearly had mastered the nuts and bolts of what makes a friendship work. Respect, trust, loyalty, and strong communication skills were obvious between them from what I was hearing.
She again started looking sad. I asked her if she had considered writing about her friend and their astonishing friendship. I could see her sadness fade as she recounted memories of their friendship. She immediately started smiling again. I said that maybe the world needed to hear a story that could be a model, a sort of ” how to build a friendship” kind of guide. She seemed to think that might be a possibility. We then exchanged phone number, thinking it would be fun to have coffee now and then. I was hungry to hear more of the captivating stories I had just heard and thought it might be therapy for her as well. As we parted I said ” By the way, my name is Marty”. She said,”My friends call me Izzy”.
After I returned home I walked over to my computer, read what I had almost published, and hit”delete”. My words seemed cold and impersonal after hearing such a rich rendition of Izzy’s powerful friendship. I glanced at my pile of notes I had been using for my blog and immediately shredded them. I started writing with the hope that I could capture the essence of the stories I had just heard and do them proper justice. I had heard some deeply personal stories that captured a profound friendship that many never get to experience. I hope Izzy does write their story and that it lives on forever.