Sunday, June 1, 2014

Friend with the June 1 birthday

June 1 is special to me for the reason it’s the birthday of a dear friend, now deceased. 

We attended the same church, a good start to good friendships as many will say.

We also had a mutual love for writing. A shared faith - and the same glee in stringing words together, for the rhythm and rightness and simple satisfaction of it - made a match of her and me.

She was witty and wise, which are neat qualities in an older friend. 

She was my mom's age. I was the age of her grown children. We didn’t play surrogate mother or daughter to each other but there was probably a little of that mixed in with the admiration we had for each other’s work.

At heart was the enjoyment of getting to know each other through our church volunteer work and the friendship rooting through experiences and shared interests.

I knew of her before she knew me. I was new to the church, which we'd joined with our move to the suburbs. 

The church felt enormous. It had more families on its household register than is the size of most towns we'd previously lived. Learning names is a way to make a place smaller, and this I set out to do.

At some small group meeting early on her name was mentioned. She was described as a very spiritual woman.

When we met, at some later meeting, she radiated more than spirituality. She radiated panache. 

She was a confident dresser who wore striking jewelry with bright outfits. Her clothes were a statement to her joy of life and her plan to get the most bang out of her buck.

She was a writer and poet. Poet is what she called herself. She had a knack for rhyme. No one rhymed better. She penned verse that sparkled. It brought smiles and downright laughter. 

Her poetry had humor and whimsy, each as needed, and where it belonged. She shared the gift of her poetry generously.

She was a book reader and a fan of Barnes & Noble because it was a reading haven. The fact that one of the stores came into our city was like wind in her sails. 

She was avid about crossword puzzles, another tick in the list of things we both liked to do.

Over the years I wrote down wise bits and pieces she shared with me. They were jotted into various folders kept as best thoughts about life and living.

For the past thirty years wisdom like hers has been picked up where found and made a part of my collection. 

It comes from realizing the importance of catching a thought, belief or snappy statement made by someone else and using it as a reflection and gauge of the many truths about life.

I cherish the lines in my folders that come from her. They’re examples of her wisdom. Some thoughts or sayings of hers that stood out for me:

(1) “Memory is my security."  This was from a poem she wrote. 

She read the newly coined poem on the phone to me. Using me as sounding board to her writings was part of the friendship. It made me see I could give something important to her.

She trusted me with the treasure of her words. She wanted them weighed by my ears before launching them on a wider audience.

She trusted me to be honest but I know she also relied on my kindness. She understood that as a fellow writer my instinct would be respectful.  

Writers have tender feelings for their words. We can be cautious about who we let see our work before we’re on sure footing with our artistry.

“Memory is my security” jumped out at me. It was the kind of phrase she could turn so well. She condensed her thoughts into a few shining words as in this poem that referenced her past. 

The phrase is the image of enduring love. Though my friend, a widow, seldom spoke of the married time these four words give a sense of the bond still kept with her deceased husband. 

As a succinct definition of the power of love to connect they caused me to reach for a pen and get them down.

(2) “I’ve learned not to be afraid to ask” is a comment saved because it’s an indication of the way my friend learned to deal with the world. 

She got to where she was by taking the bull by the horns when she had to, and doing the hard stuff. 

This includes asking (for help, directions, clarity, etc.). In a world that can be tough on those on their own, asking is sometimes the only option left.    

The comment about asking goes hand in hand with another remark. “I told her my problem” she said in the course of one of our visits.

She was telling how she was helped to locate a hair salon when anxious to find a stylist who would fix her hair to her satisfaction.

She told her “problem” to a church acquaintance. This gal, as it turns out, was glad and able to recommend a salon, which wound up being close to my friend’s home. 

She followed up on the tip and was a pleased client at this salon for many years.

I wrote down the remark because it reminds me that when we open up and share our situation or divulge a need we often find our answers.

People are generally interested when brought into an honest dilemma. When asked or allowed to be part of the problem solving they often can steer us to a solution or offer a beneficial pointer. 

(3) “The Holy Spirit is never late.”  My friend had enormous belief in prayer and putting yourself in the pathway of the Lord. She could come up with such beautiful expressions of faith. 

You were inspired by being in her company, and in her company you were never far from matters of faith and family.

(4) This is the one I like the best, the one that most stays with me except the exact wording is forgotten. 

Disappointingly, it’s not showing up as I look for it. It goes like this: "Pray to the Lord and then trust. God is with us always to see us through."

The church we attended had many spiritual people like my friend. They articulated their faith and readily shared it. It was amazing spiritual uplift and growth for me, especially being new there.

I became active in this church and with each new involvement met new friends like the friend of the June 1 birthday.

June 1 is a day with the loveliness of spring and summer to it. She and I often commented on her luck of having this day. 

She was happy the day was hers. Knowing her, she put her happiness to work and made a poem of it.

Ro Giencke – June 1, 2014

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