I’ve lost a few people, but in the same breath, thankfully, I’ve found some of them again.
Two weeks ago I reconnected with my best friend from high school. We had not seen or spoken to each other in 18 years.
The last time we were together was in 1997, when she and my family toured Universal Studios in Hollywood. I never heard from her again.
I searched for her in the succeeding years, on every trip I made to Los Angeles. The search was futile.
Around 2008, I gave up and told myself that someone who didn’t want to be found would never be found. That was that.
But I would think of her every now and then, and wonder what she was up to, how she looked like. I would often say a prayer for her, wishing her well, praying that she was safe.
Then, in God’s perfect time, came an answer. Last year, my daughter, who is my best friend’s goddaughter, landed in a class being conducted by my best friend’s older brother. The universe conspired to bring us together finally; soon enough, I got a birthday card in the mail with a return address.
No longer lost, finally found. And so we reunited in LA after 18 years, like the two giddy schoolgirls we once were at Maryknoll. We started to fill in the gaps. It felt as if no time nor distance had passed between us, just the way it’s supposed to be when friendship is real.
Don’t force it
Here are some lessons I learned from this wonderful gift of finding her again.
One, friendship cannot be forced. For whatever reason, if you find yourself estranged from a friend, and despite your efforts at reconciliation you are spurned, just give it up. God restores everything that is meant to be healed or restored in His perfect time.
Our humanity and stubbornness sometimes drive us to force the issue, but if the other person’s heart is not ready, no reconciliation will ever take place. Pray instead for the other person. If he or she is meant to be back in your life, even if it takes years or even decades, it will happen.
Second, when you are reconciled finally, tread lightly. I did not pose probing questions and instead just listened to her stories, slowly piecing together what her life has been the past 18 years we were out of touch. She also did the same, and so there weren’t any moments of awkward silence between us.
Third, do happy things together. My friend and I made trips to the Getty Villa and rediscovered our shared appreciation of art and history. But we also spent an entire day at Disneyland and let our inner children out to play!
Fourth, people change so be open to a new kind of friendship that can evolve. We had both grown up in so many ways, and many times I was in awe of how competent she had become in many areas that, 20 years ago, I could never imagine her doing. Where before she had so many fears, nowadays, at 50, she navigates the LA freeway so fearlessly, and she has built a wonderful, comfortable life for herself. I could not stop telling her how proud I was of all that she had become.
Fifth, look back on shared joys, rediscovering what is new in the present, and make plans for the future together. At 50, we each have our bucket lists, and some of those involve travel which she and I plan to do.
Carving out time and investing in relationships are necessary when you come to this stage in life. When you have lost many friends to illness, you cherish the value of each day and the gift that this precious life is.
It was great to discover we still both liked the same music (which now includes Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith) and enjoy the same food.
We still both hate wild roller-coaster rides, but I’m now teaching her to appreciate the beaches (which she shuns) that are only a 15-minute drive from where she lives.
The biggest lesson for me was the affirmation that, in many things including relationships, we must learn to surrender and trust in God’s divine wisdom and timing. There are a couple of people I have lost and am still hoping to find in this lifetime.
But I also know that not all friendships are meant to be rekindled and, sometimes, reunions don’t always turn out what we expect because people and circumstances change.
But for those that do work out, they are manifestations of God’s amazing and healing grace.
Perhaps, in those 18 years, my best friend and I had a lot of growing up to do. I am just grateful that the spark she and I found as two little fearful 5-year-olds on a playground still remains.
Now that we have found each other again—fearless at 50—I pray that we be given many more healthy and adventure-filled years to build new experiences and explore the world together.