I had coffee with an old friend this week. I pulled over on the side of the road of my journey to pause, reflect and celebrate progress with someone very special from my past. Our journey has not been an easy one but sitting across the table from her while we recapped was something incredibly beautiful and maybe a little unexpected.
I don’t know about you but at my age, I have gathered a small basket of friends that I am fortunate to carry with me through this thing called life. This particular friendship is one that fell out of my basket several years ago but one that both of us have diligently (but carefully) pursued in recent times.
I’ve known her for about 25 years. She can be quiet and unassuming but oh my goodness is she ever fun and oh-so funny! (Reminds me of my son, Luke.) She is kind and generous and conversation flows easy with her. She is such a good mom and a loving wife. She is talented, warm and genuinely kind. Because of the work we’ve done to restore our friendship, moments with her are nuggets of gold. We don’t get to hang out very often but when we do, it is sacred.
We talked about raising kids (and their unique personalities), parenting, work, the craziness of life as we combed through the last ten years. Speaking of the last ten years, it’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since my FH (former husband) transplanted and the memories of him and that time still linger in my house. I’m writing this on the couch where he sat for a live interview with the TODAY Show as they recapped his special bond with his brother and talked about the sacrifice that was made with the gift of a liver. I’m looking over at the kitchen where people ushered in meals every night so I didn’t have to cook. The dining room window gives a straight shot of the bridge where my FH and his siblings took their last picture together before the surgery.
These memories hold space in a very sensitive place…they can easily sway in the direction of pain but fortunately, they are also laced with gratitude. I have come to realize that they were the stepping stones that have led me to this place of unexplainable peace, and I am only recently able to look back on them with sweet reflection rather than bitter regret. I am thankful to God every day for these gifts of perspective, healing and growth.
Time flew with my friend as the moments filled with stories, memories, schedules and plans. We also had a chance to dive into some of the deeper issues. Here were some of the things I shared:
I am finally in a place where I can reflect back with healthy perspective.
I have fully accepted my reality, my kids’ reality, and the reality that my FH is happily married.
I am committed to doing everything I can to be supportive of this new reality.
I am so grateful that my kids have got to grow up with such a loving and caring dad and step-mom.
I am extremely thankful that I had an incredible counselor who constantly pushed me in the direction of peace.
Our conversation led to laughter and giggles but also tender moments where tears filled both of our eyes. It was a sweet balance of lightheartedness and deep emotion. When it was time to say goodbye, we exchanged a hug and I felt the love and warmth that we once shared in our past life as sister-in-laws.
We are embracing our friendship and future with delicate caution, healthy boundaries and incredible respect. I told her I had always hoped we would be friends again (and she shared that she didn’t know if that would ever be possible), and I think we both felt the deep significance of what it means to be where we are.
A few weeks ago, I wrote her a letter just to get my feelings on paper. I was hoping that someday I would have an opportunity to share some of these things with her. It was more beautiful than I had ever imagined. Here’s what I wrote:
I was so hoping this day would come—a day when my heart would be open to embracing an earnest and sincere friendship with you. I thought it would happen over time, maybe in a decade or two. I wasn’t sure what the path would look like or how long it would take. But God had a better plan for me, for us. He paired me with the most incredible counselor who constantly pointed me in the direction of love and appreciation toward you. And here I am, six years later, with a heart full of love that I would like to share with you.
I just read a letter I wrote to you one year and 3 months after my divorce. It was never actually meant for you, just an exercise I did in one of my sessions. It was littered with hurt, pain, betrayal and unforgiveness. I remember writing it, feeling so far from this day. I want you to know that from the moment I found out about you and (my FH), I fully committed to several years of intense therapy because I believed God could restore my heart. And He has done just that–I have so much peace in my life and am happier today than I’ve been for the last 20+ years.
I am so grateful for the step-mom you have been to my sons; you are so loving and caring toward them. You have created a warm and affectionate environment where all the boys have learned to be resilient, compassionate and empathetic. And even though you have been through so much yourself with the loss of your husband, being a single mom and then taking on two additional step-sons, you have done it all with such love and grace. My counselor, Erin, told me that someday I would really appreciate that you were picked to be my boys’ step-mom and she was she right. I can’t imagine anyone else filling those shoes and I am well aware of the gift you are to me, your husband, your boys, Luke and Jake.
You have always been one of my favorites. I have always found you to be beautiful, gracious and genuinely kind toward others. For the season where my vision was blurred and this was hard for me to see—that was on me. My heart was fractured and unable to process feelings and emotions in a healthy way. I know I made you feel like the enemy and today I want to ask for your forgiveness.
I look forward to opportunities to partner with you on things related to the boys and I hope we can slowly and organically develop a friendship again. Someday when Luke and Jake get married, I would love to sit with you and your husband if it’s appropriate, and I hope you will feel warmth and love from me…not just on that day, but from this day forward. I want to extend my sincerest love and support to you. I am beyond grateful that God would see the condition of my heart six years ago and choose to take it to a place of restoration, redemption and peace. Thank you for bearing with me in the process.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.