When You Lose a Friend

I lost a friend. She wasn’t well, so I was vaguely thinking about visiting, and then, suddenly it was all over in that bleak, unfair way that makes no sense, and generates questions.

White Flowers

How long will we be sad?  What will we miss? What are friends for?  Is there a check list for somebody to qualify as a friend?

A check list is a stupid idea. There are too many sorts of friends.  But if there was one, this would be hers.

They Turn up when you Need to Make a Friend.

It was simple as ‘I’ve got a baby and I don’t know what to do with it. Do you want to bring yours round here, and drink tea?’  So we sat and wondered about our babies and made friends.  It does not need to be a baby, it can be a broken car, a puppy, or a patch of stinging nettles, anything that needs dealing with. The friendship bit creeps up while you are doing the dealing bit.

They Know More than You 

It is crocus season and here they are.

crocus flowers

I don’t know the Latin name, where to plant them, or how to get more next year.  She did.

This is more crocuses?  Croqui?  What is the plural? She would know.

Chickens attacked the Crocus flowers

The chickens escaped and ripped them all up in some kind of temper.  Why did they do that?  How can I stop that happening again?  She would have told me.

Garden stuff was her thing. She was also good for politics, travel, literature, obscure historical facts and other things I forgot to ask about.

Hang around with people like that and you can bask in their reflected intelligence but only if…

They Make you Feel Good about Yourself 

I had a Labrador dog once. She was a greedy thief but she was always pleased about whatever you did. This friend was the same, because she also made you feel like you were the best person around. But she was better, because she didn’t steal your food when you turned your back.

They Don’t Pretend to be Perfect

Or even if they are, they don’t go on about it. She would laugh at stories of family tension, spectacular failures, job losses or idiotic decisions. Then she would point out ways things might work out for the best, and then top it with a worse story of her own. She had a fun family, fantastic travels, an interesting job but never wasted time trying to prove that to anybody.

Not like the acquaintance who leaves you needing a bit of Schadenfreude.  So that when their son, cousin, rabbit, whatever (the well-adjusted one that got straight A’s at everything and is now director of clever worthiness somewhere cool) gets done for drunk driving, you have Bad Thoughts.

You might say how sorry you are but secretly you feel a bit gleeful and that is Wrong for a friend.

It is Heather time too
They Know all the Words

Times when you are in the car, or sitting round a fire with a guitar, are singing times.

You might need to progress from ‘Hey Jude’ to something a bit more complicated like ‘Redemption Song’ or ‘Don’t Worry.’ That is when you need a person who can do the entire song start to finish, with harmonies.  No fizzling out into ‘la-da-da-la-la la’ that is vaguely in rhythm.

She was that person.

Chickens in snowdrops
And snowdrop time
They are Available for Having Fun

The one who always says ‘Yes Please’ when you are having a party, or calls to say ‘I am organising a picnic can you come?’  So you end up in places like this.


Because they fixed it.  And they turned up with more snacks than anybody else but put them out so quietly you did not even know how they got there. So you hover around and rearrange the snacks so it looks like you made them yourself.  Meanwhile they say something nice about the half bit of old cake you brought because they never ever stop making you feel good about yourself.

You Still Like Them after the Worst Holiday ever

It was bad. Stuck in France with four adults and 7 out of control children who could play nicely for 10 minutes and fight fiercely for 10 hours. Leaky tents, pouring rain, limited budget, no plan and no ferry home for a week. On the way home the children vomited in the back of the car, discussed exactly why they didn’t like each other and agreed never to meet up again.

Weeks later we laughed until we cried about the relief of not being on holiday. Decades later the children talk about it fondly but nobody knows why.

It Doesn’t Matter if a Year or Two Slip by

Decades of picnics, singing, walks, parties, and flinging growing children between our homes passed by. Sometimes there were big gaps, a month or year without contact. But with that much history, if the gap was longer, there was more to talk about when you picked up again. 

Good friends with no obligations are so easy that you hardly notice you have them. Until you don’t any more. I am glad I did and it is nice to know she had a very happy life.

Yellow flowers
Yellow flowers out about now. No idea what these are either.

4 thoughts on “When You Lose a Friend”

  1. That is a lovely tribute story Jo and I really enjoyed reading it and feeling it too.Laura was a special person and I have some lovely memories of her and her music laughter and smiles thankyou for the story and all the images now let the chickens dance but not on the crocuses.

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