Lessons Learned from the Original BFF

There are two photographs at the end of this post—one photograph is very dear to my heart and sits in in my kitchen –it is a picture of two older women—a white haired lady sitting in a wheelchair with colorful Mardi Gras beads around her neck and standing next to her is a short gray haired lady.

The casual observer might glance at this photograph and think “Look at those cute elderly women…isn’t that sweet” and simply dismiss the picture.

But, as often is the case, there is more here than meets the eye.

The white haired lady was my mother-in-law, Mary Haldeman, and the woman standing next to her was her best friend, Sue Bohannan. Sue and her family moved to Temple Terrace, Florida, in the fall of 1964 and in the summer of 1965, Mary and her family moved next door to Sue.

They were the Original BFF… they were Best Friends Forever before the technology generation invented the phrase….. and this simple picture reminds me each day of two very important life lessons the Original BFF have taught me.

The first is the importance of bonds of family and friendship.

You see, at that point in her life, Mary was living in the local nursing home. Alzheimer’s disease had robbed her of her short-term memory and her ability to truly communicate.

But it did not rob her of her BFF. Several times each week, Sue would go to the nursing home and visit her best friend. She would roll Mary around in her wheelchair…. taking her outdoors and bringing her snacks and doing everything she could to support Mary.

Sue Bohannan never deserted her BFF—she honored that bond even when times were difficult. And that is the first life lesson they taught me….. that the bonds of family and friendship should never be broken….. no matter the circumstances or challenges, one must not give up on those we care about.

But there is also a second lesson….and that is the importance of attitude.

Please notice that in the picture, my sweet mother-in-law is smiling. That smile was so typical of Mary Haldeman.

I was blessed to have a mother-in-law who always looked for the positive. She did not have one critical bone in her body and she always tried to maintain a positive attitude.

My favorite story about her is this ….. my father-in-law died in 1998 and after that, we began to see the early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. At that point, Mary started living with her daughter (my sister-in-law, Debbie).

Over the next several years from time to time, until Mary’s death in 2003, Mary would come stay with us. She would stay anywhere from 1 week to 3 months and I would run “Alzheimer’s Camp” while she was living with us. I would plan activities for us to do and we would have various outings.

During one of her visits, my husband came home from work and, without thinking it through, asked his mother, as you would in “normal” conversation, what we did that day.

She looked up at him…. paused for a moment….. then smiled brightly and said “You know, I don’t remember ….. but I bet we had a good time!”

Her smile and that simple answer….. “I bet we had a good time!” ….. was so very typical of Mary and her attitude about life.

I look at that photograph—and I realize she always lived her life that way… always forgetting the negative and remembering the positive….. and I am challenged to do the same.

There is also, at the end of this post, a more recent photograph taken in early May—of four women…. going clockwise they are Arloa Paul, Sandy Mizerak, me, and Nancy Moore. In 1980, my husband, my son Chris (age 2), and I moved from Florida to the Spring Creek subdivision in East Cobb.

Our home was on a cul-de-sac and living there already were Arloa and Nancy. In 1983, Sandy moved across the street from us. Since that time, we have been the “Spring Creek Ladies”.

Between us we have 7 children; 15 grandchildren; have had several dogs; and have experienced both the ups and downs of life. We have attended our children’s weddings and also sat with each other at hospitals—we have brought each other food when ill—and have laughed over drinks during dinners out.

Over the years, 3 of us moved to other neighborhoods but that did not stop our friendship.  Just as Sue and Mary remained Best Friends Forever in spite of life’s challenges, I am blessed to also have had 3 women who have remained my BFF.

The life lessons that Sue and Mary have taught me also hold true in my relationships with my own BFF.….. that bonds of family and friends are precious and should never be broken….. and that maintaining a positive attitude and forgetting the negative is truly the secret to a joy filled life.

But the truth of the matter is….. these lessons should not be reserved for just your BFF. Instead, they need to be found in the day-to-day relationships with family and friends and co-workers…… we need to be able to understand and recognize the strength of such bonds as well as be prepared to find the positive in our own lives even when we are not sure it exists.

I will confess that I am not always capable of doing so and going forward, I am determined to do better.

The photograph of Sue and Mary encourages me on a daily basis to embrace their unspoken message… to hold fast to the bonds of family and friendship…and to look for joy and expect the positive.

It is my hope that when I am no longer living…a photograph of me would bring to mind the same message…. and hopefully, my family and friends would see my smile and know the joy and love behind it.

For your viewing pleasure, pictures of BFF from the past and the present…..two different generations of women but all held together by love and laughter.

jfh

Mary and Sue/ Spring Creek Ladies

Mary and Sue

2015-05-07 Spring Creek Ladies (Large)