This came to mind a couple weeks ago after my friend Gracie Marshall suggested I write a column on how we nurture our friendships.
Her idea reminded me of two special women, Margo Passeau and Jeanette Warren. These women are special because of what happened when I hosted a graduation party for my son six years ago. During the party the phone rang with sad news: Dad had passed away. That was tough - celebrating life on one hand and mourning the loss of my son's biggest fan on the other.
My thoughts muddied and I couldn't make sense of anything. That's when Margo and Jeanette stepped in. They cleaned the kitchen. Put away leftovers. Looked for the plastic wrap drawer.
Later, I tried to thank them. But they brushed it off, as good friends often do. "We just did what needed to be done," they said.
Days later, Margo sat with me beneath my grape arbor. She didn't ask to join me; she just simply showed up. Didn't say a word. Didn't need to. She just did what needed to be done.
My friend Maggie Dotson cooked dinner in my kitchen for my family when I was hospitalized. I tried to thank her. You can probably guess her reply: "I just did what needed to be done."
Nurturing our friendships takes place through life's circumstances - don't you think? Through our heartaches and celebrations, births and deaths, good friends simply do what needs to be done.
Gracie said nurturing can take place through a simple phone call. "Just checking on them with a 'how was your day?' call, she suggested. "And using honesty whenever conflict arises - just to be able to discuss that in an open way and being willing to forgive."
Out of her several acquaintances, there's just a handful she could call on in the middle of the night, she said.
"Really good friends don't come around a lot," she said. "Allow them to be who they are, with all of their wonderful attributes and their warts, too."
With Gracie in her early 60s, I asked her what she'd do differently to nurture friendships if she could relive her 20s.
"Leave the dirty floor to go to the assistance of friends," she said. "There's a Bonnie Raitt song that says that time gets more precious when there's less of it to waste. I think that's true in friendship; as you get older, what really matters, really matters more. Does that make sense?"
It sure does, Gracie. It's putting away the leftovers, cooking an unexpected dinner and sitting in silence.
Or as others might say, "just doing what needs to be done."
Judy Halone welcomes readers' comments at firstname.lastname@example.org She is a member of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Copyright © 2008 by Judy Halone.