In February of 2009, my husband suffered a traumatic brain injury. It was the first Family Day holiday in Ontario, and I was, as usual, traveling in the United States. I had tried to call him many times, and finally reached him as I was ready to board the plane back to Toronto. I immediately knew something was wrong, as he slurred his words and told me that he’d had an accident at the gym, felt really ill and needed to get into the house and lie down. I hung up and called my daughter who was seventeen at the time, and in the house watching her twelve year old brother and my mother, her grandmother who lived with us and had been exhibiting signs of dementia for about the past three years, to let her know to watch out for her Dad as I made my way home. What I didn’t anticipate is that about four hours later I would arrive home to hear the news from our daughter that my husband was in the intensive care unit of the one of the best trauma hospitals in the country, suffering from a subdural hematoma or in layman’s terms, a bleed in the brain, with a 70% chance of dying that night. My world turned upside down that evening in every way imaginable and while there are many people to credit for the positive outcome from this story, including doctors, family, therapists and I believe, a higher force greater than us, it was really the impact of one special person that made the greatest difference to me during this horrific time in my life.
Over this long weekend holiday, my friend Jill and I had gone down to Florida to relax and get some time in the sun to escape the harsh February weather. Jill and I had met when she was the Nursery School teacher for my son Michael in 1999, and after a rocky start as she likes to tell it, became fast friends over the next number of years. By 2009, she was my very best friend and we did everything together. She was with me when I heard the news of the severity of Greg’s injury and immediately stepped up to take charge of the situation. She would be the one to handle my anxiety-ridden son, my confused mother and the new little puppy we had gotten not two weeks before as I waited at the hospital with my daughter around the clock for the next four days to hear the outcome for Greg. Thankfully, it was a happy ending and a full recovery which is a miracle in and of itself, but what also came out of this experience, was an unbelievably strong appreciation and love for the friendship of my girlfriend. Without her, I could simply have not managed.
As people around the world mark the celebration of International Friendship Day on July 30th we are reminded of the importance of the special people in our lives that we call “friends”. It is a day for celebrating friendship and takes place annually. “Friendship Day was originally created by the greeting card industry. It was promoted by Joyce Hall, the founder of Hallmark cards in 1919, intended to be the first Sunday of August and a day when people celebrated their friendships by sending cards. Friendship Day celebrations occur on different dates in different countries. The first celebration of this day was proposed for 30 July 1958. On 27 April 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared 30 July as official International Friendship Day”.
The word “friend” has many meanings, depending on who you are talking to and their personal interpretation of the word. From my perspective, a friend is more than a good acquaintance of which I count many wonderful people. A true friend is the person or persons that I can tell my inner most thoughts to, along with sharing the best of times and the worst of times. They are the people I can be myself with, truly myself , and that I want to call ten times a day just to tell the smallest thing to, my “trusted advisor” if you will. For me, this type of friendship doesn’t happen very often, maybe with two or three people in my lifetime, including my mother when she was alive. In Alex Lickerman’s article, The True Meaning of Friendship, he asks the question: what makes a true friend? My interpretation aligns with his explanation: “The Japanese have a term, kenzoku, which translated literally means “family.” The connotation suggests a bond between people who’ve made a similar commitment and who possibly therefore share a similar destiny. It implies the presence of the deepest connection of friendship, of lives lived as comrades from the distant past.”
My daughter says it isn’t right, that I should have more friends, as she and my son have what seems like hundreds of people in their “friend” category. Perhaps it is the development of such things as Facebook that has changed the application of the term “friend” in society today. However, there is no right or wrong interpretation of friendship, only that it is different for everyone. Isn’t the value of diversity, seeing things from different perspectives and from our own personal vantage point?
Regardless of whether you count a few or many as friends, July 30th is a time to celebrate International Friendship Day and to tell those around you how wonderful and special they are to you. I will certainly make sure to tell Jill how much I appreciate her and all she has done for me in my life on that day and always.