Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister?” ~Alice Walker
A dear friend of mine is undergoing cancer surgery this week. It’s the kind of surgery I can’t imagine having to face, and while my friend is handling it with grace and courage, my heart is breaking for her.
She’s part of a small group of friends I call my “soul sisters.” The four of us met 16 years ago when I started a women’s spirituality circle at our church. We soon discovered that the difference in our ages only enriched the connection, and our friendship deepened even more after we started organizing our own retreats. We’d book rooms at a nearby Jesuit retreat center, where we’d stay up all night and rehash our doubts and toughest questions as well as our belief in something greater. I like to remember those nights as soul-filling pajama parties.
Over the years we’ve rallied our collective strength to grieve and repair our wounds and losses. I was a certified basket case the week before my first hip replacement surgery, for instance. So the soul sisters booked an overnight retreat to get me out of the house and to ease my anxiety. We’ve also celebrated birthdays, holidays, and our kids’ graduations together. But the thread that really binds us is the unshakable knowledge that our love is unconditional.
Since I am an only child, having “sisters” like these is one of the greatest gifts in my life.
Earlier this week the four of us gathered for lunch at an upscale seafood restaurant. We wanted to see our friend one more time before her surgery, and to give her a safe place to talk about the days ahead. We wanted to renew our vow of solidarity, and to remind her that we’re here to do anything she needs. It was a humid afternoon, and despite the fact that a storm was brewing, we chose to dine outdoors on the restaurant’s patio.
An hour passed quickly, as it always does when we’re together. Meanwhile, the sky turned charcoal, thunder rumbled, and the rain came down. It drummed like a mad percussionist on the canvas patio cover, threatening to dampen our table — but it didn’t. So we stayed outside under the canopy, just the four of us, talking and laughing nonstop.
And we enjoyed the rain. We all agreed there was something cozy and romantic about it — sort of like being little kids and feeling safe in bed under the covers while a storm roars overhead.
And that’s what pure friendship is all about, really. It’s about feeling safe with each other when the storms roll in, sometimes one after another. Our friend told us as we left the restaurant that she believed her surgery would be successful, no matter what the outcome, because she had so many loved ones lifting her up. She reminded us that love is more powerful than anything and is impervious to things like cancer and surgery. Love rides out the storm. — Cindy La Ferle