Today is my friend Myra’s birthday. I’m not planning to make a habit of announcing birthdays. It was embarrassing enough on mine. But today is meaningful because Myra and I are taking a walk on the beach. And I feel really lucky about that.
Not just lucky that we’re walking on a beach in California while some people are shoveling snow. I feel really lucky about Myra.
Myra and I never sit there, as these people are. We’re always so busy walking and talking, we pass by without noticing it. Myra would never guess the bench once mattered to me.
I sat on that bench every day for months. I sat there because I grew up by a beach and I remember my mother telling me she believed in the healing power of the ocean. So I would put on my wig and a hat over the wig, and walk to the beach, hoping somehow the healing powers of the ocean would heal me from cancer.
But what I noticed most at the beach was that everyone seemed to be with someone else.
Every single person had someone to be with.
My husband was at work; my kids were at school. I had been too busy working to make friends in my new community, and now for the first time in my life, I did not have a single friend I could ask to join me for a walk on the beach.
People who know me now, like Myra, find it hard to imagine this. Even I find it hard to imagine. My life is so full. But back then, friends were far away when I needed them most. I had never felt so profoundly alone.
I tried to let the ocean heal me. I tried to summon the memory of my mother. I sat on my bench and wrote in my journal, trying to learn something from the nightmare that was happening to me.
It was good to get some fresh air and exercise. But the only thing I remember learning was that the beach is a bad place to be on a windy day when you’re wearing a wig.
13 years later, I still come to the beach. I still want the fresh air and exercise. But the beach never did help me heal. Because its beauty could not reach inside my soul. What I needed most, what helped me heal–were people. The people I met in my new community. People like Myra. People who became treasured friends and who make me feel lucky–that they’re in my life.
So although today is Myra’s birthday, I’m the one who gets the gift: friendship.