I was three weeks into my 20s when my mother died of breast cancer. I used to lie with my head in her lap for hours, asking her broad, teen-angst-filled, answerless questions about mortality and faith like: What is the meaning of life? What does it all mean? And why do we spend so much time trying to be good when we're just going to die, anyway?
My mom would respond to my half-baked philosophical conundrums with her own sound life philosophies. One of my favorite nuggets of wisdom from her goes something like this: "If you can count your number of true friends on one hand, then count yourself a very blessed person."
Brilliant. But what the heck does it mean?
My mother died the day after Christmas, 1990 -- leaving behind my father, my younger brother and me. She was my very best friend.
Twelve years later, I met Diane. In the latest stop on my nomadic news journey, I moved to Philadelphia. The first time I'd ever been there was for the job interview. Everything was old. I had just moved to Philly from Orlando, Florida, where everything was new. It was the first time I had ever lived in an apartment building where you could smell what your neighbors were cooking. I was all alone. And I was hung up on my first love. The one who I thought got away.
I was only there because it was one step closer to New York.
So, a few months into my tenure in the City of Brotherly Love, I suspected it was time to make it more of a city for romantic love. I tried to get back out there.
I met Diane at a singles event put on by the Susan G. Komen Foundation of all things. She was on the board. I was there as a host thanks to my job in television. We were both there to meet men. But the best relationship I got out of that singles event was her friendship.
Losing my mother as I was entering adulthood was unspeakably hard. Devastating would be an understatement. She wouldn't be there for the most important moments of my life -- my first job, my first move, my first love, marriage, divorce. The list goes on. Losing my mom left me with an enormous emotional void that will never be totally filled, though I work every day to make her proud.
Diane felt like somebody I had known forever. She had a hard exterior and a soft heart. She had earned herself the label of a "career woman" to whom love came second or maybe not at all. But that was only because she hadn't found "the one" yet. And she made me feel close to my mom because she worked for the Komen Foundation.
Diane, in fact, filled a lot of voids in my life at that time and still today. In addition to bringing me back to the memory of my mother, she also filled the role of the sister I never had, and the best friend I never realized I needed.
Diane was there to help me recover from the heartache I still felt from my first love. She was there when I made mistakes with new prospective relationships and mistakes at work -- and believe me, there were plenty of both. And good times, too. When I allowed myself to fall in love again, and when I married my future ex-husband. She was there for me on my wedding day. And she was there for me as I grieved through another great loss in my life.
My divorce played out in an embarrassingly, mortifyingly, nauseatingly public spectacle. By that time, I was in New York and Diane was in Florida with her husband. But she was there for me every step of the way.
Her friendship helped fill voids again. For not just months, but for three years Diane called me every single morning at 7:00AM to make sure I was okay. Instead of waking up to a husband, I woke up to a phone call that helped me forget about the pain and focus on the positive. She talked me off of ledges and talked me back into life. She helped me realize what an amazing person I am, and the even better person I could be.
Her kind words revitalized me and eventually I grew to realize that I was not to be defined by my relationship status. But in life, now more than ever, I am defined by my friendship status.
I have lots of pals and people with whom I have a good time. True friendship, however, is a rare and precious commodity.
I understand now what my mother was telling me: It is not the quantity of the people in your life; it is the quality and depth of your bond with them and theirs with you.
So when I begin to count on one hand the number of genuine, true blue friends in my life, I always start with two women: my mom and Diane.
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