One of my “hair therapists” is also a talk show radio host. Naturally, when we get together at her place for my new look, our “gifts of gab” kick into overdrive and we chat incessantly over coffee and English toast slathered with a tomato sauté. Kim has an uncanny knack at getting people to open up, which is why she makes both a superb hairdresser and radio host.
One day, somewhere between the time that my long locks were smothered with color and those new gray strands were just starting to simmer; Kim and I began talking about friendship. I told Kim that I have just a handful of Death Bed Friends. “Death Bed Friends? What are those?” she laughed. “You know,” I said, “Those few people who came into your life and stayed, who idolized your strengths, forgave you your many weaknesses, and could always find a way to make you laugh when you wanted to cry. Those people,” I continued. “They’re also the friends you could whole-heartedly hand your kids over to in your will, they’d mourn your death sufficiently before squeezing in on your widowed husband (kidding), but really they are the ones that last your whole lifetime and they’ll surely be the ones standing vigil over your bed in those last, dying days.”
As soon as I said it, I knew who they were; the people in my life that I was referring. Their images, one after the other, started popping into my head, but I could only count them on one hand. I began to really think about that and wondered if I’ve made enough of those kinds of friends. Then it occurred to me that, while those deeper, more meaningful relationships were fewer and farther between for me; the quantity of them has always been a manageable number to nurture and let flourish. There were even a couple of people who came into my life, disguised as Death Bed Friends, that weren’t, and they’re gone now. Still, the ones who remained, are the perfect number. I think we’re only allotted just so many ridiculously special people in our lives. Besides, how many people can you squeeze into a hospital room anyway?
Of course, none of this lessens the importance of my sea of “Funeral Friends,” those amazing people whom I know would show up and mourn my death and celebrate my life. I love them too, and I need more hands to count those. But, that’s a whole different story over a different haircut and more coffee and toast.
I don’t have any plans of dying anytime soon. And, hopefully I still have plenty of time to cultivate a garden of special people in my life. One thing I know for certain; friends can be flowers or weeds. Grow flowers. And, if one of those flowers packs herself up and leaves your garden, just know she was probably really a dandelion pretending to be a rose. All the ladies pictured in this post are some of my roses.