I was doing some clearing out of old letters and found a big envelope full of the cards and letters we got during Ray's 4 months hospitalization for his major strokes in 1999. It was so good to read all the letters so warm and supportive and full of good wishes. Some of the writers have passed away since them including all four cousins who were so good to us at that time. But all of them hold a special place in my heart as they were there when the going got tough. Without those friendships we would have been less likely to survive all of what we went through, so they have a special place in my heart.
It is good to remember the friendships of the past. I know a lot of years have gone by since then but as I read I still got a warm glow thinking of all those kind people sitting down and writing letters or cards to send to me firstly in Bendigo (700 miles from home) where Ray had the two major strokes four weeks apart and then to our home or to the hospital. I guess Facebook etc has replaced those personal hand-written cards now and we will not ever rediscover all of those loving messages that we read and delete these days. They will not be saved, as these cards and letters were, put away somewhere safe to warm our hearts when we rediscover them in the years to come.
I just had a friend let me down big time. I do not have a lot of close friends though I have many wonderful acquaintances who I call friends from all the periods of my life who are great supporters of me and I love them all dearly. But an old friend who has stood the test of time is different and so it is sad to know that she really is no longer interested in our friendship now. I guess we just grew apart, infrequent contact and the fact we both have busy lives having broken down the bond. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder - except of someone else. So I know she has a new life and a lot of new friends now. Still sad that I am not included any more.
So how do you know who is a friend? Are they the people on your Christmas card list, the people on your Facebook page or in your address book? I thought I knew that answer, you see it so often the post that says a friend is always a friend even if they haven't contacted for many years. Of course it is not true. Friends are interested in you, fit you into their busy schedules, find a moment to fire off a few lines to you by SMS, email, cards , whatever form of communication they prefer. A friend might not always ring you, you may be the one doing the ringing, but they are pleased to hear your voice and to share your news.
As a widow I am very aware of the important place of friends in m life. I need friends now that my family are so scattered. I need the personal contact, I need the hugs cyber or real, I need the affirmation. Maybe I am still needier than I used to be but I never take friendships for granted. They are always important to me. I hang on to old friends and enjoy making new ones. I like people for a lot of different reasons so my friends are diverse in personality, ability, intellect, income bracket and education. There is no real "friend mold" that my friends fit into and making friends is usually circumstantial and all the better for that.
One of the considerations I have for getting a new partner is whether in doing so I will have to give up my friendships. I know I have to have room in my life for the new partner and that is okay, it means I will see less of some people which would be a pity. But if he has particular ideas of what a friend is himself then maybe there will be conflict there. With my marriage to Ray I didn't have to lose a lot of friends, some of the better looking men he was jealous of and they slowly disappeared from our lives but they would have anyway as they got married themselves or moved away to the city for work. Most of my women friends I just held onto and he adjusted to them, some of them I still consider close friends as we have known each other for so long.
It is hard to rebuild your life. I experience that every day. It is hard to travel on without a partner who has been a big part of your life for more than 45 years. When Ray died a lot of good things in my life died with him, one precious thing was the contact with his brothers and sisters, for two out of four the bonds were broken with his death. As a sister-in-law I seemed to have no merit, they no longer had the interest in me now I was no longer their brother's full time caregiver. I wouldn't have anticipated that as I was at least someone they had known for 45 years but that is the way it goes as I have read over and over on here.
Some friendships just faded away, I guess there were people who thought they were Ray's friend rather than Sue and Rays friend so they are simply no longer interested in knowing what is happening in our family now. That is something I did anticipate as I had heard about that from other widows. Now I am aware of some who while they are still friends with me, who are hanging in there for old times's sake, are maybe not prepared to go into the future with me as friends if that future has a new partner in place of Ray. I wonder how I will cope with that?
Life is complicated whichever way you look at it and relationships are complicated too. So who is a friend for ever and who is a friend just for now? I will have to wait and see.