I was 18 and preparing for my high school graduation when a friend of our family invited me up the street to her house so she could give me a gift. Actually, a friend of our family is too general a term. I grew up under her laughing gaze, had been best friends with her kids, and she had been best friends with my mom.
This woman had walked with my mother through pregnancies, childbirth, church potlucks and endless evenings filled with laughter and food. Things took a turn a few years into their friendship when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. This friend wasn’t about to let a change of plans wreck anything, though. She kept up right alongside her best friend, holding her hand through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. She was there when the word “terminal” was dropped on the table like a piece of rancid meat, and she was there at the end, when death took my mother from all of us.
And, then she stayed. Even after all that, to make sure that there wouldn’t be another piece of our world that fell apart.
I lost my mom when I was eight years old but I didn’t lose her girlfriends. They stuck around. For the long haul. Long enough to invite me over a few days before my high school graduation and hand me my mother’s coat with a lot of emotion and little ceremony.
That coat is hanging in my closet now. When I open the closet door the smell of soft, brown leather embraces me like a mother’s arms. I think of my mom when I see it. I think of how our arms and hands and hearts are cut from the same cloth and are now wrapped in the same cloth too. But I think of someone else when I see that coat, too.
I think of my mom’s best friends. Of all of them. All of the women who stood fiercely beside her, defying cancer to rob her or her family of anything that was within their purview. I think of how they stepped up during our darkest days and then stayed until they slowly got brighter. I think of how they hugged me at my mother’s funeral and then hugged me again at my wedding or when my babies were born, and a thousand times in between.
And then I think of the women who are surrounding me. My best friends. The ones who eat at my table, hold my chin up when I’m ashamed, pray me through my fears, make me laugh until I cry, and help me mother my kids. I think of them and I know that if anything ever happened to me, they would give my daughter my mother’s coat when she graduated from high school.
That coat, with its warmth and magic, reminds me that girlfriends are far more than people we have dinner with or see at church or school drop-off. They are our guardians, our legacy. They’re like lockets, little pieces of gold that hold our image and our hopes.
Girlfriends matter. A lot. They stand with us and around us. They help sustain us and make our load lighter. And sometimes, their love outlasts death.
When we invest in our friendships, we’re not only taking loneliness off of the table for ourselves; we’re taking it off of the table for our kids, too. We’re teaching our kids that friendships matter. We’re showing them how to show up for the people we love and we’re showing them that’s it’s OK to depend on people. And the real beauty of it all is that we’re doing it together.
Our girlfriends are like my mother’s coat. Sturdy, soft, beautiful and priceless. A timeless staple. And without them, we’re just left out in the cold.
Kelsey Lasher is a mother of three and an author, pastor and member of the MOPS Speaker Network in her home state of Colorado. She is passionate about encouraging and inspiring people, especially little ones in footy pajamas and the women who are raising them. Find out more at kelseylasherauthor.com or find her books on amazon.com/author/kelseylasher.