Old friends are a steady spring rain,
or late summer sunshine edging into fall,
or frosted leaves along a snowy path—
a voice for all seasons saying, I know you.
The older I grow, the more I fear I’ll lose my old friends,
as if too many years have scrolled by
since the day we sprang forth, seeking each other.
Old Friends by Freya Manfred
* * *
Last Sunday I gathered with twenty or so old friends to celebrate the 80th birthday of an old friend. I remember when “old friend” only meant “dear friend.” Now it actually means old—as in, well, doddering.
(We have met the geezers and they are us!)
We may be old, but old ain’t dead. We old people number our days and then forget the reason. For us, when I’m 64 is no longer future tense. It’s past pluperfect. Vera, Chuck, and Dave are married, with grandchildren on their knees.
We came by invitation to honor our old friend who was (I think) the oldest old person there. She could have made the rest of us look younger, but she didn’t because even though she’s every minute of 80, she looks 60.
It’s a marvel if not a miracle.
And here’s the thing: She of all people should look haggard, worn, and broken. She’s had more grief in her life than the rest of us there combined. Somehow the weight of the world has not crushed her.
She radiates joy.
We’d all hate her if we didn’t love her so much. She’s a hero. Our hero.
We sang “Happy Birthday” and then chanted “Speech! Speech!” We didn’t have to. She’d come prepared to say a few words. And she did.
She mentioned each of us—her old friends—by name, in turn, and said specifically and individually how over the years each of us in different ways had stood by her, lightened her burdens, made her laugh, made her way less difficult.
I know that life is hard, she concluded. Sometimes it’s very, very hard, but grace abounds. And I know that because of you.
Silence. Sighs. Sniffles.
She smiled and then thanked GUS.
GUS, she told us, is the “Great Universal Spirit.”
We cheered and clapped.
(To GUS all praise and glory!)
We were told not to bring presents.
No one did.
But each of us left with a gift.
See Paula’s “Cascade of Love” on the home page. Posted December 11, 2022