Today is my friend's birthday. I've thought of her off and on all day and wondered if she was having a good day. Jan is one of those friends that even as far away as I am from her today, I know that if I called her up we could talk for an hour and still not cover every thing we needed to talk about. Every time I see this quote, I think of Jan. "True friends are the ones who never leave your heart, even if they leave your life for a while. Even after years apart, you pick up with them right where you left off."
I met my friend Jan years ago, when Jim and I moved to Illinois. She lived down the street from me and offered her friendship to my lonely, homesick, and out of place self. She had two little girls that my kids played with; hours of playing strawberry shortcakes, running through sprinklers, tea parties and super hero's. Those wonderful Illinois summer days gave my children great friends, but they gave their mother a gift beyond measure. A big person to talk to!!!! Over the years and over the miles we continued our friendship. Often not talking for months at a time, and then one or the other would call out of the blue and would spend an hour or so catching up. She would always ask what was the latest thing Isaac had done and then laugh uproariously when I would report that he was jumping off the roof onto the trampoline or that he had filled BOTH the neighbors window wells with water. She would always let me brag a little about how smart this kid or that kid was, or which kid had broken what bone or who was recuperating from the chicken pox. I got to hear how fast Missy and Sarah were growing up , or hear about the neighbors that we both knew. I always loved to hear how her mother and her sisters were doing and how her husband was doing at work.
I moved from Illinois, back to Utah and really the six years that we spent in the same neighborhood pales in time compared to how many years we have spent NOT living in the same place. But she's still my friend.
We eventually both ended up in Las Vegas living not too far from each other. Her two daughters had decided to call Las Vegas home. Jan and Ken followed them to the desert and so once again her family filled a void in my life when I was away from my own family. They just gathered Jim and I into their family gatherings like we were really apart of the Stottler clan.
As I think of this friendship that has spanned about 30 years, hundred of miles and has endured sickness, (she is a breast cancer survivor), raising children, changing jobs, marriages of our children, divorce and just life in general...I realize how blessed I have been to know this extraordinary woman. Her sense of humor and the love that she so freely gives to everyone she comes in contact with makes her a unique and wonderful friend.
I remember when I was about 16 years old, as is a norm for our religion, I was given a patriarchal blessing by our Stake Patriarch. In this blessing, he told be that I would always have good friends. I don't think I really appreciated that blessing, or even understood what a great gift friends would be in my life. But today, when I remember my friend, Jan, I know that I have been blessed by our Heavenly Father. I have always been surrounded by good friends. Everywhere I go, when life takes me down this road or that road, The Lord has always put good friends on my path to help, to uplift, to laugh with me, or to cry with me. I am so grateful for this wonderful gift in my life.
As I prepare to leave this amazing part of the world, with all it's beautiful wooded forests and red tiled roofs, the one thing I will miss the most is the friends that I have made along the way. I will miss the sometimes less than perfect English. I will miss the great hugs and smiles on the street as I pass. I will miss all those who have given this old, worn out, American lady who can't wrap her head around the language a chance. Even if the only way we communicate is by sign language and a strange game of charades, I will miss the warmth and love of my Croatian/Bosnian friends.
I am truly grateful for all my friends and I'm looking forward to "Catching Up" when we get home. But for today, I'd like to say, "Happy Birthay, Jan, I love you" Debby