I’ve spent 14 of the past 36 hours in the car. The 20 hours we spent in a charming small town in the middle of nowhere were totally worth the sacrifice. The last time I was there, 13 years ago, my destination was the same, St. Catherine’s Catholic Church. This little town is like a time warp as you drive down Main Street, it looks like nothing has changed in 50 years.
My last visit to St. Catherine’s for the wedding of our new friends. The bride was blushing and filled with anticipation. The groom was calm and contemplative. We had only met nine months earlier. I worked with the groom and we lived in the same apartment complex. We were transplants to a city none of us had ever spent more than a couple of days in prior to our permanent arrival. We found friendship in our commonalities.
Without family nearby, the bride and I did some wedding planning together, as I was getting married two months later as well. I remember going to her final dress fitting together. I sat and watched her have the final touches completed. My heart ached for the bride as I wondered how she could face this day with such strength without her mom, who had passed away while she was in high school.
Mere weeks after their return from their honeymoon, I made an emergency visit to their apartment. To say I was a big red, ugly crying mess when I knocked on their front door would have been kind. They let me in and held me while I sobbed. My dad had a stroke and was transported to the Mayo Clinic. The facts seemed serious, but my mom assured me that I needn’t worry.
It was that moment that defined our friendship. We were definitely not that good of friends and had I had any wits about me, I would have never done that to anybody. Maybe it is why I hold strangers hands on airplanes, because someone who didn’t have to, met me in my moment of greatest fragility.
In the years that have passed since the cementing of our friendship, we’ve bought and sold houses, had babies, moved to different states, vacationed, done DIY projects, ate out (a lot), played endless amounts of cards, and developed our cooking skills in each other’s kitchens. We have become family in a way that you only know when you don’t have family nearby.
When we walked back into St. Catherine’s church last night, it was filled with family, friends, and flowers. Her dad was softly laid next to the baptismal font looking as peacefully as when he passed away Monday morning. I saw my dear friend across the room, just as strong and beautiful as she was the last time I had seen her in her beautiful white gown years ago.
I know there was no expectation that we would be there, but I can’t imagine having been anywhere else. For the record, it took 27 seconds to decide we would figure out a way to make it. It took 83 minutes to have the plan pulled together with care lined up for our kids. For the times that you have been by our sides, we want to be by yours. Dear friends, you are our family.