Tag Archives: friendship



I was leaving town on December 8th for the winter so I went visiting teaching earlier than usual. Afterwards, I decided to stop in unannounced at another ward sister’s home  to say farewell. I hadn’t seen Cora Lester*  for a while and the last time I’d heard, she was in remission from last year’s terrifying battle with thyroid cancer.

She looked weary and was recovering from pneumonia. She shared the devastating news that one of her daughters living in another state had just been diagnosed with lung cancer, and that another of her out-of-state daughters had brain cancer.

Cora, whose heart is oceanic in its compassion and generosity, seemed broken and bowed under the weight of these challenges. She felt helpless to give anything “more” than empathy, a shoulder to cry on and her ears to hear her family’s sorrows and stories. Continue reading Present

A chicken named Herman and other favorites…

Today something special happened to me. I made time for my friend. It is not something that I tend to do, but I am learning. We went to lunch and as I watched her tender face light up while she explained a short story she was working on, I wanted to hold the moment- just freeze it there in blissful ice. For two hours we sat under the umbrella of friendship, chewing on our life’s stories with the beef and vegetable soup.

Between the two of us, Veloy has lived longer. She recently turned ninety. Her age is more than her weight of eight-four pounds. She has been a widow for almost two decades. We call each other soul sisters. She loves drama and writing and has won poetry contests. She loves motorcycles and recently took a Harley ride through the mountains to see the autumn leaves. Veloy was a magician’s assistant to her husband for forty years, so she mastered disappearing, being dismembered, reassembled, and keeping a secret. She has traveled the world and caught joy everywhere she went. When her husband passed, she was able to keep her head afloat by selling their vast antique collection – including two horse-drawn hearses, a post office, an original firetruck, a square piano, two trains, and a cannon. She said, “I have had some hard times, but I’ve had a good life. I recently started writing down all the good moments I had in my life. When you focus on those, everything seems to be better and you forget about the hard times.” I asked her to tell me more.


She told me about the pet chicken she had as a child that followed her everywhere she went. It happened to be the same name as her future husband – Herman. She told me about being bitten on the finger by a monkey and having to go to her Dad and trying to explain. She talked about the last days in the hospital with Herman. As I listened to her, I reflected on the favorite moments in my life. Jodi Picoult said, “Do you know how there are moments when the world moves so slowly you can feel your bones shifting, your mind tumbling? When you think that no matter what happens to you for the rest of your life, you will remember every last detail of that one minute forever?” One minute is not long, but it is enough. It is enough time to pull you out of the day to day running and pushing and pulling that we do from the moment our feet hit the ground to when we pull them back under the covers.

It’s called transcendence. They are moments as thin as a razor’s edge.

The first time I tasted a Belgian chocolate in Brugge, my legs went weak and I had to lean against a wall to finish it off because I was so overwhelmed by the taste. It was like all the first kisses of the universe wrapped under gold foil. Once someone I loved ran his finger along my collarbone and it burned like fire. The night before I left Florence, Italy, I sat on an ancient wall with my legs wrapped around my boyfriend and we watched the stars reflect on the Arno river. They seemed like fireworks because my tears blended the light and water like a watercolor painting. I’ve awakened to find my toddler’s face close to mine and the morning lavender light highlighting his innocence and sleep so perfectly that I never wanted the moment to end. I remember one particular favorite moment when I had finished doing a show as a second-rate actor and as I was driving away from the venue, I had the distinct feeling that if I turned left my life would go one way (toward a relationship) and if I turned right, my life would go another direction (to the unknown), and I got to choose. I paused at the stop-sign and in the beauty of that gift from God and got to ask myself what I really wanted. I turned left and have been with that man every day since for the last twenty-three years.

I don’t seem to put much importance on the quotidian tasks of my life, but if I could string my favorite moments together over the last (almost) forty-seven years, I think I would see that my inner life was more magical than anything I could have dreamed of when I was young. My inner and outer lives run on parallel tracks, both with different destinations. When they do happen to cross, the moment hangs in the air like a round ripe apple on a tree. I get to pick it and put it in my collection basket. (As Veloy entitled her winning poem), I become a “memory merchant” and like Veloy, I could say, “It’s been a beautiful life.”

Remember, they are called moments because they do not last very long, but the “small silent moments are the true story-making events of our lives.” (Douglas Coupland)

Describe to me one of your favorite moments (and make it last):

The Upside of Stupid


I am moving across the country in two weeks, so June, my best friend of 30 years, drove 300 miles to visit me this week. She took two unpaid vacation days to do it. We had to pack in quite a lot of memorable activity and talk in just a short day and a half, so we headed up the Columbia River Gorge to get started. The first day’s plan was:  1) hike,  2) soak in the mineral water at Carson Hot Springs,  3) eat at Skamania Lodge,  4) sit in the adirondack chairs at Skamania and talk till the moon came up over the gorge.  Continue reading The Upside of Stupid

Is this real?

I don’t pay any attention to football, college or otherwise, and hadn’t heard of Manti Te’o until his “fake girlfriend” story hit the news last year. I found his story oddly fascinating, and a quick internet search turned up a number of articles about similar online scams. The interesting thing to me is that so many people lie on the internet for no other reason than boredom, loneliness, and curiosity about how other people will react to them. There usually isn’t any kind of tangible physical gain for the perpetrators, and often there isn’t a tangible loss for the victims. However, it almost seems worse to me to be stealing things like trust and intimacy, rather than money, from people.
Continue reading Is this real?

Finding room for your burdens on my back

About a dozen years ago, my best friend went through a difficult time. It was actually more than just difficult; as the miscarriages added up, they seemed to obscure everything else and take over her life. We had lived together for several years in college, but we had graduated, gotten married, started our families, and now lived more than a thousand miles apart. We’d talk on the phone a couple of times a month, but I never knew what to say. I called because I loved her and I knew I needed to, but it always took a certain amount of pysching myself up to pick up the phone. She felt powerless. I felt helpless. I didn’t know whether to listen or to offer advice, and I was always sure I was going to stick my foot in my mouth. And then there was the fact that while we both had toddler sons, I had gone on to have a daughter as well. I think it was hard for both of us not to retreat from the friendship. When I got pregnant with my third child, telling her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

In the years since that time, I’ve talked with friends about their unhappy marriages, and given (probably bad) advice from the point of view of my own solid union. I’ve chatted online with a friend whose son was dying while my own houseful of sons created chaos at my feet. I’ve tried to listen sympathetically to unmarried friends, while staring at the diamond on my own ring finger. In each case, there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix the situation, and listening didn’t feel like enough.

Right now, someone I’m close to is going through a hard time financially. My own family enjoys enough affluence to be comfortable, but not enough to make their problems go away. And even the daily, easy interactions we used to have (“What did you do this weekend?”) feel charged (“Dinner and the Ira Glass concert, how about you?”). I think we’ve both retreated from our relationship, and I know that it’s hard for me because I just feel so darn guilty. In Mosiah 4 we learn that we’re supposed to impart our substance with those that need it, without judgment, and that makes me worry that we’re prioritizing piano lessons and date nights above the more serious needs of our friends.

How have you helped friends through difficult situations, especially when your own life seems relatively easy by comparison? How do you resist the urge to retreat and manage not to stick your foot in your mouth? How do you know how much to help? How do you know when you’re “mourning with those that mourn” and not just making things harder for them?