In the classic novel, Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley defines the ideal friendship for which her young heart has yearned. She desires, “A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life.”
Friendship, and I’m talking about true friendship, is rare. Have you ever had someone who you could call day or night and they would pick up, listen to you ugly cry, and before you’ve finished emptying your heart they’ve shown up at your door? That kind of friendship bolsters us up and carries us through this difficult journey on earth making the trials easier and the joys worth sharing. To me, there is another, quieter sign of intimate friendship which communicates an even deeper soul connection.
In my novel Madame Beekeeper, the main character, Rachel Buckner finds herself in her early sixties without true friendships. She kept everyone at arm’s length for so long that one day she wakes up to the stark reality that, though respected by many, she has no one to, as Anne Shirley put it confide her inmost soul. As the story unfolds, Rachel begins letting people into her heart – or is she finally letting herself be welcomed into theirs? It’s hard for her to tell. Rachel learns relationships can mean being vulnerable and that it is just when we are weakest that we find out who our real friends are.
After a horrific accident involving someone dear to Rachel, she finds herself alone with LouEllen, her neighbor and former coworker. The evolution of their friendship culminates on the quiet drive home from the hospital and this moment has become one of my favorites in the book:
Neither Rachel nor LouEllen spoke. Both were too drained from the day’s events. One sign of true friendship is that you do not feel obliged to fill the void of silence with idle chatter. Sometimes friendship can be best felt in the comfortable intermission between words.
I have been blessed with friends who are kindred spirits. Bosom friends who have cried with me and laughed until we cried – laughed so hard we couldn’t even get another word out and we’re barely able to breathe. Better still, these friends, in the moments when life has paused and the rush lapsed into silence, have sat – just sat – with me, both of us comfortable, not feeling the urge to break the silence.
This criterion for a sign of true friendship might seem odd to some. Comfort in silence as a trait of friendship? Take a moment and think about it though. Who can you sit with, unabashedly yourselves, and neither of you feels compelled to say something? You are just happy in each other’s company? To me, that is the ultimate assurance that a friendship has fully blossomed.
What is your defining trait for friendship? I’d love for you to share in the comments.