About fifty years ago when I lived in St. Louis, up the street from us, lived a woman who has remained one of my dearest friends all these years. Mary Kay: the Catholic mother of five with a strong understanding of children, of humanity, of right and wrong, of God. My two boys and her sons played together daily. I painted murals on her daughters’ bedroom walls and enjoyed watching them grow into young women. Mary Kay and I shared recipes, ideas about mothering, and insights about life. She loved my art and went to my shows, appreciated the awards I won as if I were her sister, and purchased some of my paintings. I remember when her husband died, how she coped with raising five children alone. She was there for me when I divorced, though we lived far apart by then, and several years later embraced my new marriage.
But mostly Mary Kay and I shared our growing understanding of God and how to apply Christly love to our daily lives. Rooted in very different religions, we nevertheless very much respected each other’s viewpoint. After I went to seminary, I understood more deeply her religious grounding. Through healings she’d seen my family experience, she understood mine. Throughout these sixty years, like two branches of the same tree, our viewpoints grew together as we both searched and lived Christianity. No matter my many moves to various states, we managed to visit each other and keep in touch; still do. So it was natural to receive her phone call Thanksgiving weekend and catch up.
We shared our kids’ recent endeavors, our own adjustments to living under Covid (one of her sons is an intensive care physician working in eight hospitals), recent doings, but most of all we shared, as always, where our spiritual perspectives had led us. Mary Kay told of coming to a recent idea of giving people eulogies while still living–letting one know how much they are appreciated while here, not waiting until they are dead. She offered an example of how she was doing this, telling a friend his attributes who died only a few weeks later. She told me she had formed the habit of saying “God bless you” to grocery clerks and anyone else. “God bless you” being a way to remind others that they are loved. Another insight Mary Kay has been sharing with others is this: “Breathe in love; breath out fear.” Seems a perfect thought for today’s challenging times.
I shared with her a bit of wisdom that sits on my window ledge, something I wrote out recently on a tiny card that I’d heard in a Christian Science lecture: “Man is as safe as God.”
God is central in both our lives. Insights we gain in our spiritual journeys have always mattered most in our friendship. I love that though our religions are very different, we have always united in knowing that God is present and powerful in our lives and the lives of others, that God is ever available to everyone. We both have always desired to give to others generously and to combat whatever would pull down humanity. We both cherish the golden rule: to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We both know that love is vital. How we each have chosen to come to this reality doesn’t matter as much as the fact that we know it and attempt to live it as best we can. A good friendship encourages this. In a good friendship one is not afraid to remind the other of what she needs to do, to live well, to give generously. A good friendship is a blessing. A good friendship grows, is never stagnant. It challenges. It reminds. It corrects. It embraces. It appreciates. And above all, it loves.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, my religion, said, “Just live love–be it–love, love, love. Do not know anything but Love. Be all love. There is nothing else…Be nothing but love.” (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Vol. 1, p. 296-297).
May you be blessed with a loving friendship.
About the Artwork: Rue Charmant, framed watercolor, 22″ x17″. I painted this in Antibes, France while there for my 60th birthday and loved it so much I never intended to sell it. But when Mary Kay and her daughter Meghan came to visit me in Maine several summers ago, Meghan loved it so much so I sold it to her–it could go to Meghan, Mary Kay’s daughter.