What Makes for a Life-long Friendship? A Snapshot of Such a One

Blog - Kathy 3

A friend loves at all times.Proverbs 17:17

Kathy was in nursing school when we first met. She was on a clinical rotation to the cancer unit where I was the oncology clinical nursing specialist.  Bright, hard-working, kind and wise beyond her years.

We met again some time later when she was finishing nursing school and sorting out her future. She was thinking about obstetrical nursing, loving the idea of all those babies. I saw in her the hardiness and indomitable spirit of a cancer nurse, and asked her to at least consider that course for her professional life.

She did…and I will forever be grateful.

We ended up moving overseas after just a few short years of working together. In those years, a friendship was forged that has stayed strong across time and great distance. I credit it all to her.

I’m not sure how great a friend I am, but God has blessed me with incredible friends. For almost 30 years now, Kathy has hung in there with me…without benefit of much return.

Her birthday is coming up and I just want to make note of what makes for a close and life-long friend – in her loving and mentoring me. [She will say I mentored her…but in friendship, it is she, mentoring me].

Such a friend:

  1. Shares a passion for the possible, if you’re in the mix. Kathy and I collaborated on a patient and family support initiative of our cancer center. In those early days I had the ideas, and she worked out the details. We had a third friend, Kay, who (given her position, wisdom, and spunk) cleared the path through administration for our great dreams…but that’s a story for another day. Kathy was the “hands and feet” to my dreams, and that initiative still continues even more far-reaching under her influence.

Blog - Kathy & Deb 2Blog - Kathy & Debbie

2. Loves your “littles”. Kathy was from the beginning, and to this day, in the lives of our children. She celebrated their births (or homecoming with our adopted third) and their birthdays, their graduations, weddings, and now children of their own. Kathy is a celebrator of life and makes a “ticker-tape parade” for those she loves…and there is a great community of us…because of her.Blog - Kathy & CBlog - KathyBlog - Kathy 2

3. Makes an honored place for you in her family.  I have a room in her house. Oh, it’s not mine, and it’s possible, it’s become a game room with her own children growing up. Still, I know I have a place in the mix of her family. We’ve had coffee together on her deck, and food around a fire pit, and late-night or early morning talks wherever in the house we find ourselves. She has always invited me in to know her family, and they treat me as always welcome.Blog - Kathy & MikeBlog - Kathy & family

4. Sees beauty all around her and creates it as well. Despite (or maybe because of) her hard professional life, she has a great sense of all the beauty that surrounds us. She tends flowers and sets a bountiful table (with that great cook of a husband, Mike). She notices the redeemable in a situation, and she exercises  unshakable hope. She has both the wonder of a child and the faith of an old one. she struggles like all of us, but her actions seem measured; tempered by something greater. She lavishes grace on her people…which I need from her and of which she’s generous toward me.Blog - Jasmine - Kathy VisneskiBlog - Kathy Visneski's pic of farmer's market shopping & Wonder Bread - foodie

5. Grieves bravely and bravely enters your grief. Grief can be so awkward. How does one go well through losing someone you thought you could never live without? Kathy has done that, professionally for years, with patients and family for whom she became family. Then when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, this friend turned all her force of love on us. She called me and my mom, encouraging and counseling with us both through the chemotherapy, and the failure of it.

We have talked for over a decade since Mom’s Homegoing about her – Kathy, asking questions for me to talk about her, and listening over again to the memories that comfort me. Then when her own darling parents became ill and died within months of each other, I tried to be there for Kathy (from hundreds of miles away). Yet, I wasn’t the friend I wished to be. That grace to walk through those days seemed to come from God Himself – wrapping His arms around a daughter who served others well, and now He served her in her own grief.Blog - Kathy's parents

Though I’m not the friend I hope to be…Kathy is that friend. I could have written this blog about many others who have extended great grace to fortunate ones like me. Great, great friends. Today, on this occasion, nearing another birthday, I just wanted to say thanks to this friend who teaches me how to be a better one…and if that day never happens, still is such a friend, because it is her nature to be so. Thanks, Kathy. Happy Birthday.Blog - Kathy & me

Do you have friends you celebrate over a lifetime? I would love to hear about them (in comments below).

Survive and Thrive Cancer Support GroupSunset in East Tennessee - Kathy VisneskiSunrise off Kathy’s deck.

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