I have had some people ask me recently what at first might seem an odd question. However, I am convinced it is very important.
What is friendship?
Some may giggle to think that someone wouldn’t understand what a friendship is, but you won’t when you are done with this article.
A Definition of Friendship
A definition I found on an online dictionary has this definition of friendship:
The emotions or conduct of friends, the state of being friends. Relationship. Attachment. Bond. Link. Union. Understanding. Harmony. A state of mutual trust and support.
So, what is your definition of friendship?
I’m not writing this piece because I have all the answers. I’ve had just one friend in my lifetime whom I can honestly say I trusted completely.
Her name was Barbara June York.
Barb and I were friends for 27 years. We had a lot in common in the first fifteen of those years. We were both people who were raised by alcoholics and both had childhood trauma histories.
Wow. How many of us have someone we feel all those things about who reciprocate 100%?
Today I am going to share the story of my best friend Barb. Ours was a unique friendship to be sure.
At one time we were closer than two peas in a pod. We helped each other through the hard times we both faced in therapy. She too had been a victim of childhood violence and we shared a great deal in common in other ways too.
So, here is the story of my forever friendship with Barbara June.
Friendship is something I’ve always found difficult. Not that I cannot be a good friend, but that I have a hard time trusting others and letting others share my world. Having survived severe childhood trauma, I struggled with getting close to anyone. Then one evening I met Barbara June.
I had begun going to a twelve-step program for those who love alcoholics, and one evening we had a new member. She was articulate and brave, but I could tell she was in trouble. I invited her to go to a local pizza parlor after the meeting and found I was right. She was feeling the need to die by suicide. After we talked for several hours we parted, and I was fearful she would not survive.
A few days later I received a phone call, it was Barbara June. She wanted to thank me for helping her that night in the pizza parlor and wanted to know if I would like to go shopping. I had no money, but I wanted to hang-out with Barb, so I said yes. It wasn’t long before we became close friends and confidantes.
Barb lived in a small town half an hour from my home. This was in a decade before the popularity of cell phones, and she had no phone. So, she would go on top of a dam that was located near her apartment and use the pay phone. She would dial my number and then close the phone receiver in with her in her car and we’d talk for hours.
We began hanging out with each other every weekend spending most of our time just driving out in the country. We lived in an area which harbored a large Amish population and loved looking at their horses and talking about their simple lifestyle. One afternoon we noticed a plume of smoke in the distance and decided to go and see if we could find out what was burning.
We drove along, looking up at the smoke to see where to turn next and found ourselves on a dirt road. Suddenly we came upon a scene that shook both of us to our core. A cornfield was on fire and was being whipped by the wind towards a large country home whose residents were fleeing as we drove up.
I was driving my old station wagon and it suddenly occurred to me that the flames were heading straight for us at a break-taking pace. I threw the car in reverse and whipped it around to rush away from the fire and we just managed to get away before it crossed the road to the house.
Barbara June and I had many adventures and cried many tears together in our twenty-seven-year friendship. We laughed and cried together as well as helped each other when we were depressed or afraid.
The first time I was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric ward Barb took me and stayed with me for a while. I was petrified to be there, and she sat with me holding me to help calm me down.
Barb was the only person outside my professional care, who ever met a child alter. They adored her and as did all the members of my system.
Like I said, we had many adventures together and it was me who suggested that she attend college to become a therapist. Barb graduated with her master’s degree, sometime in the early 2000’s. I say sometime because I was living inpatient in a psychiatric ward by then.
Barb rescued greyhounds and adopted three for herself. That’s the kind of heart Barb had. She was kind and even though her dogs arrived terrified and shaking, they soon felt right at home in her care.
It was during the seven years when I was living inpatient that we became more distant from each other. Our friendship had radically changed when she became a therapist. I had to constantly remind her that she was my friend not my therapist because she began to analyze me instead of listening as a friend.
But our friendship survived, and we were still very close. Barbara June was like the big sister I never had. I left the long-term facility where I had lived for over seven years in 2011 and we began to hang out together again.
Then in October of 2013 Barb called to tell me she had Leukemia. I felt my heart sink in my chest knowing that the survival rate for adults, unlike children, is very low.
She entered a hospital in a distant city (Chicago) where I could not go and see her. I sent her a letter a day to give her encouragement. She fought for her life for many months and was finally allowed to return home in mid-2014.
Although I knew Barb was still very ill, she neglected to tell me that she had been sent home to die. The hospital knew they had done all they could to help her and gave her permission to return home because Barb insisted she needed to be with her beloved greyhounds and to sleep in her own bed.
In March 2015 just when the spring flowers were making their way out of the chilly soil, I received a phone call that to this day haunts me. My best friend had died in her sleep.
Barbara June was no more.
Barb’s memorial service was held in early summer with only her close friends and co-workers in attendance. A violinist played lovely, lilting music as we spoke among ourselves of how much we had loved Barbara June and all the beauty she had brought to the world.
I didn’t cry tears that day, in fact, I have not wept since her death. Barb lives on in my soul as the warm, caring and loving person that I knew and loved.
The world is a lot colder now that she has gone.
I loved Barbara June with all my heart and she will never be forgotten as long as I am alive.
Goodbye Barbara June.
Goodbye, my good friend.
I sit here today full of sorrow
I’ve lost you, my best friend
You and I were close as flower petals
We knew each other’s hearts
We knew each other’s fears
And we knew how to find strength in one another
One day you died and left me alone
So cold, so cold, so cold
The world is colder and harsher now
I know you had no choice to die
But that doesn’t stop my grief
I miss you with all my soul
My best friend, my confidante