"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Gift of Friendship

Aimee and I in Bangladesh, choosing our future vacation cottage.
Yesterday I received an early birthday present, probably one of the best I've received--a check for $3,500.00 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The company my best friend Aimee works for decided that instead of giving client gifts at the end of 2012, they would instead donate the amount of money they would have spent on gifts to three different nonprofit agencies, one of which was AFSP.

Three years ago this month, Aimee and another girlfriend joined me  for a weekend in Colorado to celebrate my 40th birthday along with my sisters and friends there. It was an amazing weekend, full of laughter, fun, dancing, celebrating and silliness, and only a little bit of drama. At that time I thought that weekend was the greatest gift ever. Never in our wildest dreams would any of us have thought that three short years later I'd be accepting a check in honor of Julie, to be used in support of efforts to prevent suicide. It all made me think about gifts, and friends, and gratitude, especially my own. I'm so lucky to have Aimee for a friend.
My 40th Birthday Weekend in Colorado
When we first met each other over ten years ago, friendship didn't seem likely. We'd both joined the Junior League within months of each other. A short time later, we ended up working together on the League's annual Casino Night fundraiser, me as the chairperson and Aimee as my co-chair. Like soldiers who bond over shared trauma, we bonded over the often stressful experience of being unexpectedly put in charge of the League's signature event. We logged many hours together in person, over the phone, and working collaboratively via email and found that we complemented each other perfectly. A friendship was formed. 

During our years together as active Junior League members we logged hundreds, if not thousands of  volunteer hours together, working side-by-side on League sponsored community projects and during two terms as League board members. Most of the time we worked in less than ideal conditions, hot, sweaty, tired, on our feet for hours. None of that mattered though, as we'd keep each other motivated by laughing, joking and talking.
Keeping it real during breaks from working at the
Junior League's Children's Health Connection.

Gradually, our friendship deepened. Aimee even acquired a nickname, Gygi (short for Glitter Girl, another nickname) to lessen confusion due to my sister also being named Amy. She was there during the breakdown of my last marriage, my divorce, and the ensuing craziness of my early single years. She was the person I called when I didn't know what to do and wondered if ending my marriage was the right thing. She listened to my troubles for hours. She was there when I ventured out into the dating world, supportive, and always willing to help me lose a male admirer turned borderline stalker, and then laugh with me about it afterwards. She never judged me for my horrible dating choices, and always agreed with me after, when I'd wonder what on earth I'd been thinking!

We've shared the ups and downs of parenting, being full-time working moms, and juggling husbands, housework and volunteer jobs. She's been my workout partner and together we decided to give running a try. We ran our first 5k together. We pushed, encouraged and challenged each other to meet our goals of running our first 1/2 marathon, which we each did a year apart. While training for a 1/2 marathon after Julie's death, she kept me going when my motivation lagged. I kept training, knowing she was counting on me as she was then training for her first 1/2. We've now finished two half marathons together. 
Finishing the 2011 Ogden 1/2 Marathon.
We've also been there for each other during the hard times. We've cried together, and shared our innermost fears, feelings and frustrations. Aimee taught me so much about grief and moving on, long before I ever knew I'd need those lessons. She too knows loss, and the horrible trauma of losing a cherished loved one too soon. When Julie died, Aimee was the first person I called outside of my family. She's been there for me for the happy times, but more importantly, for my darkest times. She's held me in her arms while I cried and questioned, and listened to me for countless hours as I've dealt with the aftermath of Julie's suicide.

Together, we've traveled to other cities, across the country and across the world. Without her, I would never have had the courage to travel to Bangladesh. We've danced, laughed, played, worked, run, and cried our way through the last decade. We know each other's weak spots, faults, and life moments and choices we regret. Each of us knows how the other one likes their coffee, and our cocktail of choice. Even during the most stressful of times, we always end up making each other laugh. I know that no matter the occasion or dress code, Aimee will almost always show up in a cardigan. She knows that I have absolutely no rhythm and can't dance, but gets out and tears it up on the dance floor with me anyway. Even when we disagree, and we do, we accept each other. Most importantly, she understands my loss, my grief, the great gaping hole that was left when Julie died. Yesterday I was reminded of that, and how lucky I am for the gift of her friendship. Thanks for being you Gygi! Love you. 


  1. "When it hurts to look back, and you're scared to look ahead, you can look beside you, and your best friend will be there."
    So glad that you have each other.
    What a beautiful and loving friendship you share.

  2. Gygi's birthday gift to you is indeed precious and incredibly thoughtful. Who needs another pair of earrings or a cute thingamajig when something like that can really make a difference.

    But you are so right when you recognize the real gift is such a precious and cherished friendship. I have a couple people like that in my life and I consider myself blessed to have put in the right situation to meet them at the right time when we were both ready to be friends. You had that same good fortune. You are a lucky woman.

    Happy upcoming birthday, Keicha!

  3. You are loved partly because you have such a big heart, Keicha. Where one person would become bitter because of loss, another one uses the experience to grow and change. You are one of those, and who knows how many lives you may have saved already because of your focus on suicide prevention? If I were your mom, I would be so proud of you. :-)

  4. God bless Aimee for so many reasons. She is a beautiful woman inside and out. You are blessed to have her as your friend. I can barely believe this generous gift that she made possible through the company she works for.

    DJan is right. I am incredibly proud of you Keicha. I love you.

    1. I was looking for the "like" button on this, Sally...and then realized that I wasn't on Facebook. :)) but wanted to "like" this anyway...!!!


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