Years ago, I was at the beach with my family when I noticed a group of ladies nearby who appeared to be in their 50s.
With a quick glance, I knew they were on a girls’ weekend. All the signs were there — coolers and cocktails, beach bags with romance novels, straw hats, umbrellas in the sand — but most telling of all was their laughter. Lots and lots of laughter, the kind that draws attention and curiosity from anyone in earshot.
I loved watching these women enjoy each other’s company. Although they were older than me, and well past my season of life in having babies, I could imagine being in their shoes one day, basking in the glow of old friends who still made me feel young again.
That afternoon, I saw two of them in the elevator. When I commented on how much fun they seemed to have, they smiled and nodded. One replied, “Oh, we do have fun. We’ve kept this beach trip going for 20 years and have been through everything — divorce, death, cancer, unemployment. Don’t ever lose touch with your girlfriends, sweetheart. The older you get, the more you’ll need them.”
The conversation left an impression on me. While I’d always treasured my girlfriends, I’d never thought about needing them more with age. And if I’m being honest, it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve taken their words to heart.
Because now that I’m in my 40s, I’m seeing how real divorce, death, cancer, unemployment and other major life problems are. I understand what they meant when they emphasized the importance of girlfriends, as my age group faces hardships we couldn’t imagine when we were young and carefree.
Last February, I found the advice these women gave me really validated when my dear friend Emily, whom I met when our daughters became friends, lost her husband Joe in a plane crash. Emily and Joe weren’t just any couple — they were the couple who had been best friends since age 15, whose incredible love story was still going strong. What they had was special. To have it end early and suddenly was unfathomable, unfair and hard to comprehend.
Joe’s death impacted a lot of people hard, and throughout their home there was so much sadness and grieving, so many heavy hearts in one place. In the midst of this tragedy, however, there was also so much LOVE. You could feel the Holy Spirit everywhere, working in Emily and the people surrounding her.
As I left Emily’s house the day after Joe’s death, I sat in my car and reflected on everything I’d witnessed. One thing I kept thinking about were the women in Emily’s life, and how amazing they’d been. It wasn’t just the food being carted in, the affection showered on the family, or the fact that so many people had dropped everything to drive or fly to Birmingham. It was the way Emily’s village came together, how friends from every stage of life were represented (adolescence, college, law school, work and motherhood) and how well everyone knew her.
And because they knew her well, they could do a lot to lighten Emily’s load.