A Definite Benefit

“And friends are friends forever If the Lord’s the Lord of them And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end’

This morning I chatted online with an old friend. She shared some news that I had recently heard from another dear old friend. It was a sad bit of news for a lot of us, but, joyous for the one we were talking about.

While we lived in Winter Harbor, ME, Dale and I met some wonderful people. Most were military, like us, but some were town folks. One of the women that I had the pleasure to serve on a Women’s Aglow board with, passed away earlier this month. The news had hit hard for me and for the woman that I chatted with this morning.

After reading her obituary, the song above came to my mind, especially the stanza I quoted.

This led me to other thoughts. When I married Dale, we were very young. I only knew that where he went, I wanted to be there. My thoughts were to set off on the adventure of marriage and the Navy. I had no clue what that would look like, but as an almost 20 year old, it was like a fairy tale in my mind. Rainbows, flowers, and Dale and I slowly walking together, hand in hand. No cares. No worries. Nothing impeding us.

That bubble quickly burst. The first few months were filled with long days and loneliness. Then one day, a timid knock on our door. Another anxious face stared at me. She was holding onto a precious little baby. It was a nasty day out, and this woman hesitantly asked if I could hold her baby while she got her car from the back parking lot. From that timid meeting a friendship grew. That baby became our godchild. We haven’t seen that family in forever, but when we talk, it is like we still live a floor apart. That apartment building is now an empty lot filled with weeds and brush. It no longer exists, but the memories of that place burn bright in us.

Thus began the beautiful, unexpected benefits of Navy life.

Japan gave me two beautiful women who are my prayerful, joking friends. I talk with these women via messenger several times a week. In my mind we are still in our early twenties. I visit one of these ladies whenever I visit my daughter. Our conversations are easy, no space has distanced us. I often say our conversations begin, “And then…” A continuation of the last face to face visit.

Japan also gave us family. A family who we have mourned with and laughed with. He is like a big brother to me. One who will be there to pray with, argue with (though not often), and correct. His daughters are my nieces. His wife moved to heaven a couple of years ago and memories of her come with tears.

“Though it’s hard to let you go In the Father’s hands we know That a lifetime’s not too long To live as friends”

Japan also gave us our first pastors, dear,dear loved ones. This year’s card told us of a diagnosis that will remove any memories of us. As I have sat this week thinking of that kind of loss, my heart breaks. To be here and not be able to recall is a harsh thing. Yet, her words still were clear as she talked about our Lord. Giving strength to those who read her words.

The memories at Christmastime are always mixed. There are memories of laughter, joy, romance (I was proposed to at Christmastime),loneliness, loss. The memories are endless and dear.

I never expected to be at this point and to look back over the decades. Littered throughout the years are faces of friends. Faces that have brought joy and hope and belly laughs. Faces stained with tears and also tears of laughter.

The greatest definite benefit of this life I said yes to 49 years ago when Dale put a little diamond ring on my finger has been the gift of friends. We have lost many of our friends, but, I know one day we will be face to face once more. We will share our joy, our praise once more, this time Jesus will be laughing along side of us.

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.” I John 4:7 (NLT)

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