I received another one of those emails today that asks you to answer several questions about yourself--something that's supposed to help your friends get to know you better. This one asked, "Who do you miss the most?" The person who sent it to me wrote her mother, father and the family she grew up with.
I stopped and thought. Who do I miss? My parents? The husband I lost to cancer? I couldn't honestly say I miss them. They're better off than when I last was with them: my dad had heart failure, my mother was 89 and her mind had gone from me, my husband couldn't breathe. As I thought about it, one name came to my mind. It was the name of one of the oldest friends in my life. We met in second grade. She stayed with us for about six weeks in high school while her parents went to Africa. She rode to school with us every day from junior high through high school.
After I graduated, we moved from our home town, and after she was married, she and her husband moved to the same town we were living in. We moved back to our old home town and so did they. Then they moved to New Mexico and we didn't see each other for a long time. She wrote letters, called, sent needlework presents, and never let go of our friendship. She got cancer and fought it for years, but finally she just gave it up. I remember the last time I spoke to her. What could I say? Not much. I just cried. I wasn't ready to live in a world without my friend, but I had to.
I guess I miss her more than anyone I've known, and the reason is probably a selfish one. Someone who hangs on to you for over sixty years must love you. What I miss is not just talking to her, but knowing she's still holding on to me.