Where We Left off

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| This is the 263rd story of Our Life Logs |


Have you ever met someone that was such a complement to your soul that meeting them was like discovering a color you had never seen before?  Suddenly, the world felt a little brighter, the sky a little bluer, and life’s worries a little less…worrisome. That person for me wasn’t a love interest, but a dear friend that brought light to my darkest days.

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I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 5th, 1950. The second-born of two children, you could say I was a very happy child with an easy smile. I remember being very curious about people and the world around me. I was inquisitive and social, but I also had a sensitive side. I was definitely a “daddy’s girl,” which made losing him without warning to a sudden heart attack when I was 13 extremely traumatic. I remember feeling very lost, and the reality that I was not close with my mother offered no solace. I needed to find my smile again, my joy. I needed an outlet for my emotional depth and sensitivity, and I think that was my impetus for ultimately pursuing a career in behavioral health.

In search of that solace, I also tried to build strong friendships. Unfortunately, most of my friendships were fleeting. People often connect for a reason, and it lasts for a short time—a season if you will.  This was often the case during my college and early adult years. There wasn’t that one person I could rely on. From job promotions to terminations to relocations, we each have an invisible wind that carries us along life’s many pathways. It can be hard to accept, but some people are only meant to be for a chapter or two…

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Yet, my negativity toward friendship shifted when I met Barb. It was the summer of 1980, in St. Louis, when I was introduced to the lady I would come to know as my “soul sister.” I owe it all to a chance meeting between my husband Mark, our son Josh, and Barb and her daughter Nikki. Mark was taking Josh, who was around 16 months old, swimming at the local Jewish Community Center. He happened to strike up a conversation with Barb, who had been playing in the pool with her daughter; the little girl was around the same age as our son. After sharing some background on our two families, Mark felt that Barb and I would totally hit it off.

And we did. It was indeed a match made in heaven. We spoke as if we had known each other for years! Our personalities were strikingly similar. Our conversation flowed with ease, and I enjoyed listening to her talking about life. We both were stay-at-home moms at the time, and since our kids got along, we began setting up some future play dates.

Nikki and Josh as toddlers in St. Louis 1981
Nikki and Josh as toddlers, 1981.

Before long, weekends were spent hanging out poolside or having dinners together; the two dads and kids joined a “Dad & I” group. Barb and I loved taking the kids out to places like Chuck E. Cheese’s and the arcade. By now, we were all like extended family. We had other good friends in our lives, but this was beyond compare.

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The years flew by, and our kids grew up together and respectively thrived. The two of them came into their own as bright, sensitive adolescents with good heads on their shoulders. Josh steadily excelled, but one day, Nikki suddenly began to struggle, emotionally. She had difficulty fitting or maintaining friendships which led her to a dark state of mind.

Barb and Jim had discussed a “fresh start” that they felt would benefit their entire family. Jim was looking at early retirement, Barb wanted to be close to her mom, and Nikki was growing more socially isolated. When Barb told me in 1994 that they were moving to Cincinnati, Ohio that August, I was not surprised, but it was the confirmation I was dreading. After a wonderful 14 years, our families were now going to be several states apart. I was devastated. And so, that summer of 1994, we said our teary goodbyes. Jim and Barb reassured us that we would stay in touch, but life has a way of…getting in the way.

Barb and I remained in contact fiercely in the beginning. But over time, both busy, working moms, we started to lose touch. I never thought it to be deliberate at all, but I did feel that she was detaching from me, emotionally. At this point, I was working as a licensed professional counselor, and I knew she had her own professional life (she had started her own business in St. Louis and then later opened an office in Cincinnati) as well as the normal family demands, but I could not help but feel I was losing my best friend. It was not a malicious thing, nor was it by any means premeditated. However, the sheer fact that it happened at all was a complete shock for me. My dearest friend—seemingly ever-present—gradually began to slip away.

The phone calls became fewer and farther between, and Nikki, with whom I used to exchange frequent emails thanks to the advent of the Internet, had also lapsed in her correspondences as she grew older. Our once vibrant dialogue gradually shifted into small talk and in time, all went silent.

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The world kept on turning, as it does. I continued working as a professional counselor, helping others manage their daily stressors and interpersonal conflicts, but suddenly I was the conflicted one. I needed a hand to reach out to in the darkness. I couldn’t understand it. How could a precious, sisterly bond so profound, so sealed, be suddenly broken? I needed my true friend to not just provide a shoulder on, but to lean during the torrential downpour of my life. Barb was not there to weather the storms with me. I was inconsolable and unsure of where to turn. I had other friends and close family, but the vacancy was felt, deeply. It was as though a beautiful passage in my life’s book had suddenly, without warning, been forcibly interrupted, leaving me lost and wounded. How could that have been the end of Barb’s chapter in my life?

My husband and I came to a crossroads in our own lives: both practicing counselors, we had also ventured into the sticker business, which had been extremely successful, but we began itching for a change. A major one. We sold our sticker business—and our beautiful home—and bought a horse ranch in Costa Rica in 2002.  It was something we had talked about but were waiting for the right time to proceed. Now that Josh was a grown adult and living his life independently, we knew our time had come.

mark and marsha with horses (approx. 2003)
My husband and me with one of our horses, c. 2003.

Mark and I had always been drawn to horses and their energy, beauty, and gentleness. If I am honest with myself, I think that subconsciously I was looking to the horses to soothe my own heartache over drifting from Barb. In starting this new chapter of my life, I had memories of Barb and her family that kept me from truly feeling whole. I remembered Josh and Nikki horseback riding with their dads. Yes, after all these years, we still missed our dear friends.

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Flash forward to the mid-2010s. With no way to call Barb from our new home as her number had changed, I lost hope that we would ever reconnect. But then, an unexpected face appeared in my Facebook friend requests. When I realized who it was, I nearly fell off my chair. It was none other than Nikki Forbus! I ecstatically accepted her request and we proceeded to update one another on many years apart. I was very eager to hear how her parents were doing, so Nikki gave me Barb’s email. But before I could sit down to write, I already had a long email waiting for me from Barb. My heart soared!

She was so happy that Nikki had found me again, and she apologized profusely for not staying in touch. Barb was very honest with me about everything: after the move to Ohio, she was caught up in the turbulence of life, struggling to maintain balance. She never meant to hurt me or abandon our friendship. I knew she was genuine, and I accepted her apology and the reality that life happens. My internal conflict over the loss of our friendship was finally in the past; I was just so happy to have reunited. True friendship always finds a way.

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In 2017, Barb came out to visit us for a wonderful week in May. It was truly like old times. The only difference was a few grayer hairs, combined with some well-earned laugh lines. And boy, did we ever add a few of those lines that week. We shared, we laughed, we listened, and we cried upon discussing our beloved Jim, whom I learned had passed away in 2011. He was the love of Barb’s life, and she and Nikki missed him desperately. Thanks to long-distance communication, five souls have been realigned.  That stolen chapter of my life had been reopened and filled with bountiful joy…at last.

barb reunited with the friendmans in Costa Rica 2017
Barb (left) reunited with Mark and me, 2017.

Helen Keller writes, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Truly. Indeed.

 

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This is the story of Marsha Friedman

Marsha is an equine facilitated therapist living with her husband, Mark, and many animal friends, on a lush horse farm in Costa Rica. For her early life, Marsha had fleeting friendships but never found that soul connection until she met Barb. Their families became close until Barb’s family moved to Cincinnati in need of a change. Over time, the families drifted apart until Facebook brought them back into contact years later. Barb and Marsha are now reconnected and happy. Marsha has a God-given gift of compassion and uplifting others—both through her wisdom and the aid of some wonderful horse healers. She is doing her life’s work in one of the most captivating places on Earth. She is a friend to many, a loving wife, devoted mother, and one-of-a-kind “surrogate mom.” Her endearing smile and genuine heart inimitably illuminate a room.

mark and marsha in Costa Rica (approx. 2002)
Marsha with her husband, Mark, at their Costa Rica home, c. 2002.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on December 28, 2018.

| Writer: Nicole Forbus | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

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