Finding old friends….

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the girls who were my best friends when I was growing up.

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Now you have to understand, I’m talking about a completely different world—back in the ‘60’s.  Back then a child of six or seven could walk to school without fear.  A child could play outside in the neighborhood with the other children and not worry about going home until the street lights came on.  Those who didn’t head home right away would hear the sound of their mother hollering their name, echoing across the back yards.  Those were wonderful days for children.

I had several ‘best’ friends growing up.  I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t kept in touch with any of them over the years.  We moved from the old neighborhood when I was thirteen, and even though I wrote sporadic letters to some of them for a while, after a time the letters stopped.  So, I have no idea what happened to all my old friends.  Over the years, they’ve often come into my thoughts as memories of my childhood returned.  Then I recently made the decision to attempt to find some of them.

You would think in today’s world with Facebook and LinkedIn and all the other social networks, it would be fairly easy to track down old friends, and I suppose that’s true with male friends.  But when you’re looking for a female, it gets a little more difficult.  Women marry and, more often than not, take their husband’s name.  They basically become impossible to find.  So I wasn’t having much luck finding any of my old friends.

Then I did a search for my friend Nina.

Nina was a girl I became friends with back in the first grade.  She and her family moved to my neighborhood from another country.  I didn’t know from where at the time (I learned just recently, Nina was born in Canada), but I did remember both her parents were of Scandinavian descent.  Her mother was Norwegian and I have fond memories of going to their house and hearing her mother bustling around in the kitchen (they lived in a very modern split-level home), singing Norwegian folk songs, and baking spicy Christmas cookies.  I have never forgotten the day my friend, Nina, was late for school because she had gone with her parents to a ceremony to become an American citizen.

But life interferes, people move, and Nina and I lost touch.

So I decided to do a search on-line for her.  More than likely because her name was not a common name, I actually found some information about a Nina that sounded like it might just be her.

I came across a website that had been set up to honor a woman in her struggle to return from a stroke which had almost taken her life.  There were photos showing her in a wheelchair and going through physical therapy, and photos showing her finally going home.  I continued to search, hoping I would find out more information about this woman as I was certain this was my Nina and I was determined after finally finding her, I was going to contact her.

And then I found a link to another website, and when I clicked on it, my heart dropped.

Not too long after going home, this Nina had suffered an aneurism and died.  I looked at the date on the memorial site and cried.  She had passed away exactly one month earlier.

I had waited too long.

Tears running down my face, I scrolled through the photos that told the story of Nina’s life; photos of her as the young girl I remembered from my own childhood; photos of her and her two daughters; photos of her and her husband.

It wasn’t fair, I cried out.  I had waited too long to look for her and now she was gone.

There was an email address listed for one of her daughters, and I emailed to explain I had gone to school with a Nina many years ago and described the place and situation under which we had known each other.  My hope was I had the wrong Nina, but my hopes were crushed when her daughter emailed me back and told me—yes, I had the right Nina.

My friend was gone.

I never had the chance to know her as an adult.  We didn’t have an opportunity to compare notes or share our life stories, and I’m sure by what her daughter shared with me, we would have had a great deal in common.  I have to believe we would have laughed over mistakes we’d make and smiled over shared joys in our lives.   I was very thankful to discover Nina was a faithful Christian, and I know someday I will be reunited with her.

However, that knowledge down not erase the sense of loss I have.

Sometimes people come and go in our lives for a reason.  Nina had a sparkling outgoing personality—even as a small child—whereas I was a very shy child.  She came into my life and befriended me and made me laugh at all of life happening around me.   She lived every day of her life with love and excitement and passion, and from what her family has told me, she never backed down from a challenge.

I am so sorry I waited so long to try and contact her, but even in her death she has inspired me to live my life with passion and enthusiasm—not to just go through the motions.

Whenever I get tired of trying, I will remember Nina.  And I will try one more time.