This year, in my own simple way, I am celebrating FRIENDSGIVING in lieu of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks is something I do every day, and most recently with due diligence. However, Friendsgiving is a practice many have adopted – some without even realizing it.
Friendsgiving is a casual potluck supper where the host often prepares a turkey (or other festive meat or main dish of choice), and guests bring their favorite side dish or specialty; no matter how humble or elaborate. The gathering is often the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving. But it can also be held on Thanksgiving Day for all practical reasons. In fact, Friendsgiving can be any day in autumn.
The idea is for friends to gather together to celebrate their friendships, reflecting upon how they met, and how they all have cultivated and valued their ties together. There are many people who are far away from home, at school or work, without families of their own, or who have lost their loved ones. Friendsgiving allows them the opportunity to give thanks and feast together. It is also customary to include new friends or acquaintances in the spirit of fellowship. Their friends have become family.
Friends are very precious gems. Sometimes we take them for granted. But we all have people who have come in and out of our lives randomly throughout the years. Sometimes they stay a while; some leave without warning; and there are some who are there for the duration; often returning after decades of going our separate ways, yet never losing touch.
But there is a unique and glorious type of friend also – the ones you know, or barely know, who perform acts of great love, compassion and humanity towards you – when you least expect it, and when you most need it. I call these friends “Pearls.”
This is not what I intended to write about this month; even as things began to unfold in my life during the last few weeks, I did not want to write about this. But there is no way I cannot. Now that I have seen first hand how brief and fragile life is, I must address this subject for the goodwill of all of us.
On October 30, I developed severe abdominal pains on my right side, radiating to my back. It was excruciating, and by Friday I was heaving and regurgitating blood. My neighbor, a retired nurse, rushed me out to the ER, where their initial thought was I had gastroenteritis. I was admitted for overnight observation. My neighbor stayed with me, even going up to my room with me and helping me answer questions during my admission. She also volunteered (with trepidation, however) to help Rudy, my not-very-friendly Blue Heeler, who was left at home unattended. This in itself is huge, because he suffers from fear aggression, and most people are afraid of him. As an animal lover, she took it upon herself to be his caregiver as long as was needed without bloodshed or drama. He continues to pretend not to like her. She has also checked on me diligently and made sure I was okay at home alone. And took it upon herself to spruce up some of my landscaping. How can you not love a Pearl?
My overnight observation turned into a four-night stay. I was much sicker than originally thought. There was no gastroenteritis, instead, a UTI (urinary tract infection), which dehydrated me, causing my kidneys to fail and ultimately, I developed Septicemia. When I learned this, I was devastated and terrified. For three nights, I suffered through fever, hallucinations and violent body tremors. But it was my decision to fight like hell, and rather than stay for weeks and weeks passively allowing the sepsis to take me out, my doctors deemed me fit to go home in short measure.
It was upon returning home when reality set in and I immediately sank into a deep depression filled with fear, anxiety and the terror of what I had experienced. Mostly, my emotional state was haunted by the fact that this was the first time I truly needed my mother's presence, and she was not there. Delayed grief soaked me like a wet blanket, and I cried and prayed, and cried and prayed some more.
Then, I met with a urologist who informed me that I have a rare kidney stone that comes from a genetic condition. This stone is what set all of the other conditions in motion; beginning with the UTI.
Soon some other Pearls began to appear – like those angels unaware we hear about. The morning after I arrived home, a Pearl left some cans of soup on my front door. Another Pearl made me beef stew, corn muffins and a small pan of brownies, along with a basket of fruit and bath tissue. This Pearl also took me to a few doctors appointments. One lustrous Pearl made me my favorite meal; liver and onions! A very dear Pearl brought me a turkey dinner that lasted me a few days. And, another Pearl brought me a very special lunch on Sunday. Then there was a rare Pearl who unexpectedly helped cover some expenses without my knowledge, removing a tremendous burden from me. Of course, there were those who visited, called and wrote me. My mother would be very happy to know how many people have shown their love and support for me. This was her biggest fear that after she left, I would not be cared for; not so. This is how Pearls come together and form the friendship strand that binds us all together.
My surgical procedure to blast my kidney stone was scheduled for November 23. Let me tell you, I'm the most frightened wuss on earth. Immediately, I began to fret and worry; not one for hospitals or procedures I'm not familiar with. I won't lie – I've been scared! Mostly, I worry because I'm alone and don't know what to expect, still recovering from my hospital stay. But, other Pearls in the strand have reassured and comforted me with their experiences and expert knowledge. Yet, more than anything, all of my Pearls have covered me with their wisdom and undying faith in our Creator. I am told I have many, many “prayer warriors” lifting me up. I am certain it is these glowing Pearls who have helped me through this thus far, along with my fierce faith in God. My personal relationship with Him has grown stronger – as I am.
So, hopefully, by the time you read this article, I will have successfully made it through this procedure (yes, lots of people have it done every day; but remember, I'm a wuss); passed said stone fragments with little disturbance to my neighbors; and, I will have ideally celebrated my 62nd Birthday yesterday.
But most of all, with or without a big feast, in my heart I will have – and will spiritually continue to celebrate Friendsgiving with all of my Pearls – As I will for the rest of my days.
As Seen in THE COURIER-TIMES