For three years our lives traveled the same path. We were nursing students at a hospital based diploma program from 1961-1964.
From this season, we remember being packed together like sardines in a crowded dorm, working days, working evenings, working nights, all in the same week. We did this while studying, memorizing, testing and being victims of each other for practicing injections, inserting nasal cannulas, inserting urinary catheters and worse.
Together we stood breathless at the birth of babies, wept with patients who died too young, sighed with the aged for whom death came too slow, watched with amazement as children from Viet Nam romped with glee, seemingly oblivious to their amputated limbs, wondered why brilliant artists were confined to psychiatric prisons and pondered the uneven responses to medical “practice”.
I don’t know why riding this emotional roller coaster, sleep deprived and anxiety ridden, left us with a lack of judgement and a defective moral compass but most of us came from under the scrutiny of small town behavioral expectations and discovered that in the big city of Milwaukee there was no village to raise a child—no one to call your parents and report.
So, we took risks.
We dated strangers. We drank too much. We pushed the limits of crazy.
All of this we did together. We started in 1961 as “me”. We ended in 1964 as “we”.
But then, our common path diverged and we each went our separate ways.
The converging of two of these separate paths “happened” at the 50-year class reunion in 2014 and is, therefore, prompting this post.
As these two former students, now battle worn nurses, met, a recognition of belonging was rekindled; a desire to engage again in each other’s lives was sparked.
For the past three years, since 2014, this connection has been by email, Facebook or messaging.
This week, however, I traveled cross country to her home and we have spent the last four days both enjoying the stunning seaside and filling in the gap of fifty years apart
The sweet comfort of being known and loved paved our sharing as we unwrapped our lives for each other. The questions were safe because the one who asked really cared. The answers were safe because the one who listened really loved.
There was so much to share that most of the time we had to interrupt each other to get a word in. That was OK because just like in a family there is no reason to not talk at the same time.
We learned from each other about:
The death of a son.
Seasons of financial stress
Being a defendant at a crime scene
The brutal death of a deeply loved friend
A husband with dementia
Family members rejecting Christianity
Learning to embrace diversity
Chronic illness with precarious treatment options
A heart for the homeless
Disillusionment with health care
A gripping appreciation of God’s expression in nature
An unshakeable trust in the goodness of God
A secure trust in the faithfulness of God
The blessing of friends who walk with us
The rest of taking ourselves less seriously
The joy of finding God in the ordinary.
In pondering these things, we celebrate that this fifty year gap has deepened, not diminished, our friendship.
From the script on the gift of a pillow “We will be friends ‘til we are old and senile…then we will be new friends”.