I’m writing this post from the carriage of a train, gliding up the east coast of England. I’m on my way to meet my oldest and dearest friend, Jill.
Jill and I like to tell people that we’ve known one another so long, we can’t remember not being friends. We were born three months apart, grew up two streets away from one another, and our parents even knew one another before we were born. Aside from my immediate relatives, I’ve known Jill longer than anyone else.
Jill and I were besties in high school and stayed friends when we both went off to college. We both married and got busy. I moved to California and she moved to Scotland, but we saw one another when we could. It wasn’t unusual for three or five years to pass between our times together.
Then, a few years ago Jill asked if she could come to California to visit. I was thrilled. It turned out she had lost a good friend to cancer. Her friend had died way too young, leaving behind a husband, toddler son, and many heartbroken people who loved her. Her passing made Jill re-evaluate the importance of her own relationships. She realized how important it was to make an effort to spend time with the people she cared about. Luckily for me, I was one of them.
Since then, we’ve seen one another at least once a year. She’s made the 6,000-mile trip to see me three or four times now. One time we met halfway in New York City, and another time I flew to Las Vegas to meet her when she was there for a few days. Whenever I go back to the U.K. to visit family, I make plans to see Jill. It takes considerable effort for us to get together. Aside from the trans-Atlantic flight, it’s four hours by train, even longer by car, to get from my mum’s house to Jill’s. We often end up meeting at a midway point, which is why I’m now on an early morning express train bound for Newcastle.
We’ll get to spend about seven hours together today. We both like to eat, so we’ll undoubtedly start off with coffee and a sweet treat. We’ll wander the city, maybe walk the river or pop into a museum. We’ll have a long lunch in a nice restaurant, undoubtedly including a glass of wine. And then, if history repeats itself, we’ll undertake a little retail therapy and she will talk me into buying a pair of shoes I don’t need but will end up loving.
More important than all that, though, we will talk. We will catch up on one another’s lives. We’ll help each other through whatever issues we’re dealing with. We’ll talk about our families, politics, health, and topics we might be too embarrassed or uncomfortable to talk about with others.
And we’ll laugh. Oh, boy, will we laugh. Because of our long history, we’ll finish one another’s sentences and catch ourselves singing theme tunes from childhood TV shows. She will tell an inappropriate joke and I’ll pretend to be offended, but I’ll be unable to stop myself from giggling. When she laughs, her whole face folds into itself, and that makes me laugh even more.
When it’s time for us to say goodbye, we will cling to one another like it could be the last time, and we will cry like a couple of sillies. We’ll board our trains, southbound for me and northbound for her, and before we’ve even pulled out of the station, we’ll text to say we miss one another. I’ll feel a funny combination of both joy and loss.
Over the years, I’ve learned many valuable life lessons and tidbits of advice from my friend. But most of all, she has taught me the value, in this crazy busy world of ours, not just to take time, but to make time, to see the people that we value, the people we truly love.
Between the train fare, the lunch, and the unnecessary shoes, I will be considerably poorer by the end of today. But I will unbelievably richer for the time spent with my friend.