Bittersweet: the taste of true friendship

I lost a dear friend this week.

As I attended her funeral yesterday, I was struck by the number of times that I heard someone say (either to me or just overhearing conversation around me) how sweet Grace was.

Yes, Grace was sweet, but perhaps what I loved most about her, was alongside the love and affection she generously showed, she was never timid about serving up a big ole healthy heap of honesty.

And let’s face it, the truth isn’t always sweet. Sometimes it’s bitter. Sometime’s it’s ugly, Sometimes, it’s a sharp jagged pill that isn’t easy to swallow.

My friendship with Grace probably wouldn’t be considered typical by most people. Separated in age by a few decades, she was old enough to be my mother, but in many ways she was kind of like the grandmother I never had.

She loved me. I knew she loved me. She loved me without conditions, preconceived notions or expectations. And I loved her.

We were closest during a period of my life when I was going through some difficult times. I was a young woman at a crossroads when a lot of decisions were made and when I really needed exactly the kind of love and friendship that Grace provided.

She supported me, she encouraged me, she listened to me, and when I wanted it the least and needed it the most, she’d hit me upside the head with some cold, hard, honest-to-goodness TRUTH.

Needless to say, we didn’t always part company with mutual feelings of the warm and fuzzy variety. Because, did I forget to mention? sometimes I don’t mind saying exactly what I think either.

I always knew I was in for it when she would sigh, roll her eyes, and start in with “I mean….”. And I knew by the time she got to “…and everything” that she had said her piece and it was up to me to take it or leave it.

I didn’t always enjoy it, but I always appreciated that I could depend on Grace to tell it to me like it was!

I don’t know how many hours I would have had to have spent on the couch at a shrink’s office to equal my time with Grace, sitting at her dining table with a couple decks of cards between us as we chatted through some nice long games of Canasta… but I would hate to be on the receiving end of that shrink’s bill!

(She will always be my favorite Canasta opponent – as ruthless and as cunning as myself – we were merciless when we played each other, relishing in the other’s defeat!)

Was Grace sweet? I don’t know in all honesty if, while she was still living, that would have been the word to first come to my mind in describing my dear friend. And I’m not sure, in the spirit of our friendship, if I can honor her memory with that description today.

But I know this. She loved with all her heart. She loved her family. She loved her friends. She loved her God and Savior. She loved her Church. And I know for a fact that she loved me.

We loved each other, we loved each other through our prickly parts, in spite of our thorns, and sometimes, maybe even because of them! There is no better testament to true love, true friendship than that.

Grace, you were truly loved, you are greatly missed, your memory will be cherished!

and everything…

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