Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2012 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5773
The value of one true friend
By Sharon Randall
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When I saw her name on the e-mail, I lit up like the candles on my last birthday cake, which is to say pretty darn bright.
I met Marilyn 26 years ago, when I took my first newspaper job as a file clerk in the library, an ink-smeared cave called "the morgue." Let me assure you, it was not called that for naught.
If I had the dirtiest job in the newsroom, Marilyn had the worst -- single-handedly compiling TV listings into a weekly magazine, a job most newspapers have since replaced with, well, never mind.
She worked harder than all the rest of us and she was really good at her job. I knew that at the start, as everybody said so, but I knew it a lot better after I became the "goat" who filled in for her on vacations or if, God forbid, she got sick.
I prayed for her health like a house on fire, and for her vacations, that she would never take more than a week at once.
It's not like she didn't train me. If I trained that hard for a marathon, I'd either hold the world record, or be dead.
It was just a pitifully detailed, tedious job, which come to think of it, might also be said of motherhood. But given a choice between nursing babies and listing reruns for "Hee Haw," I'd pick human dairy any day.
Enough about the job. The blessing in it was Marilyn. We became friends and remained so, even after she came back from vacation and had to clean up the mess I had made.
After she retired, I missed her a lot, but I didn't miss doing her job. I still hear from her on occasion in cheery little emails, all perfectly edited, of course.
This one was not so cheery. She wrote to tell me about a friend, her best friend, she said, since high school 50 years ago.
Let's call her Nan.
Marilyn described in detail her friend's predicament. Nan, she said, is going through "a very scary time," waiting for insurance and doctors and other such "gods" to schedule a much needed, very serious abdominal surgery. Meanwhile, Nan is bedridden, flat on her back, in fear of bleeding or worse. And there are no guarantees of what the surgery will find.
Marilyn knows that I've been in a few "scary places" myself, during the years when my late husband was battling cancer.
She was hoping, she said, that I could write something for Nan to encourage her and help to ease her fears.
And don't I wish that I could do that for my friend, Marilyn, as well as for her friend Nan?
Truth is, I haven't much to offer. Aside from what Marilyn told me, I know very little about Nan. I've never met her, couldn't spot her in a crowd. I don't know what lifts her spirits, calms her fears, gives her hope, or where she turns when there is nowhere to turn.
I cannot promise her that everything will be "all right;" I don't even know what "all right" means to her.
All I can say with certainty is this: First, she is stronger than she knows, and she's about to find that out. It's always a surprise to look around and see that we're walking on water.
Second, waiting is the hardest part. Grief is better than dread. If she can live in this moment -- not the future or the past -- she will have already won the fight.
Finally, I can tell Nan that she is lucky, because in Marilyn she has, at least, one true friend.
One true friend can be the cool side of the pillow. She can be the song for the road, the sword for the battle, the angel on your shoulder, the arm around your back.
One true friend can make everything "all right."
And I'm going to pray like a house on fire for them both.
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