‘It’s a deep, soulful, beautiful thing’: readers’ friendship stories
We asked for your friendship stories. Here is the winner and five more of the best. The winner and a friend get a two-night break at the Meyrick Hotel, Galway
Trish Kavanagh, on right, and her friend Brenda Keane
Geraldine Moorkens Byrne (left) and her friend Emer Ferns at Emer’s son’s christening
Elaine Barrett (right) and her friend Emma Cassidy in Brussels
Emma Sides and her children Aoibhín Little (3) and Eloise Little (5, on right)
Judy O’Rourke (right) and her friend Ciara Kirk
Maureen Mac Niallais (on right) and her friend Ann Campbell
THE WINNING STORY
Brenda has been my friend for about 16 years. We have gone through some great times and some really hard times together. I find it difficult to express just how much her friendship means to me. It’s a deep, soulful, beautiful, evolving thing. We promised ourselves very early in the development of our friendship that we would never take it for granted. We have always been open with each other, even when it hurt. And that has made us stronger.
Five years ago I was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Brenda has been with me all the way. The hand-holding, the crying, the laughing and with her wonderful, superhuman skill “The Constant Cleaning”.
She has been a rock for my husband, a liaison with my pals on hospital visits and has come with me for chemo. When I am well she arranges wonderful trips and fun things for me. All this kindness and selflessness happens when she has her own things going on, including a big operation herself the end of last year. I am truly blessed to have her in my life.
This anecdote sums up our friendship: Last week I was having a head MRI scan. It was horrible. I was upset, sweating, claustrophobic and in pain. I had decided to hit the panic button to stop the procedure. I gave it one last try, dug deep, steadied myself and drew up a vision of my tiny, fiery, red-headed, honest, pocket-rocket friend, telling me to keep going. It worked. She worked. I did it. I lasted through the scan, and they found something that they have already started treating. Brenda wasn’t even there to hold my hand and yet she saved me again. That to me is friendship.
THE BEST OF THE REST
The teacher reprimanded me for talking and placed me firmly right under her nose, where she could watch me from behind her snakeskin specs. Ten minutes later she hauled another classmate up, also for talking, to be seated beside me for the remainder of our second class term, also under her watchful eyes. And in doing so, a lifelong friendship with my partner in crime, Ciara, was born.
Ciara and I had our first drink together, have laughed together, cried together, rescued kittens together, did our first 5k run together, travelled together, taken the shirts off our back (literally) for each other, went through our first heartbreak together and are showing no signs of the calamities and adventures ending any time soon .
When my mother died when I was 16, it was Ciara I rang. Two months later, her mam passed away. They were both victims of cancer. I remember as clear as if it was yesterday her calling me to relay the news from their hot press, where she had locked herself away for some privacy. We were each other’s rock throughout the grieving process, and the comfort we were able to give one another no doubt helped us get through that difficult period.
During the long summer of 1994, when I had broken my leg and couldn’t venture too far, it was Ciara who cycled out every day to visit me on her lunch break, on her purple and white racer. Those hourly visits went way too quickly, but brought such a comfort to my day.
Our friendship has continued to grow over almost three decades, and we have grown closer with time. Ciara is the best bud a girl could have, and I look forward to another three decades with her by my side.
Geraldine Moorkens Byrne
I was that awkward child: plump, earnest, socially anxious and bright. I was told by my parents to raise my hand, answer questions, work hard in school. Obviously I was viewed as a swot, and according to one very mean primary teacher “a know-it-all”. I entered secondary school convinced that I was unlikeable, and that it was my own fault.
In second year a new girl joined our class. She was friendly, relaxed and effortlessly likeable. She was in situ the first day of school in second year, already paired off with another pupil and chatting away. She looked up, saw me standing at the door, and pointed to the seat in front of her. “Sit here,” she mouthed.
This girl made me her friend, and through her I made other friends. She never laughed at me or sneered at my random, unfashionable interests. In due course we went to different colleges, worked in different fields, travelled to other places. She married and started a family. I was a late bloomer here as well, but now we have children close in age. Throughout it all she has been my best friend, the person who accepted me for who I am, even when I couldn’t.
Without her support I would not have left a bad relationship and met my lovely husband. I have pursued my writing, taken risks, wandered, explored and eventually settled down happily, with her as a constant guiding star in the background. Over the years I have – I hope – been as good a friend to her. But it is hard to imagine anyone being a better one than Emer Ferns. Not just to me but to the many waifs and strays and mates and friends she has made happier by her presence. We all love her.
I have known most of my friends for more than 20 years and I love them dearly, but in recent years I have made a new group of friends for whom I am also truly grateful. These are my “mum” friends, the women I have met because we had kids at much the same time.
They are also, perhaps more importantly, my neighbours and they have helped me to feel deeply rooted in my community. When I had my first child I was, quite frankly, a bit unhinged, and they didn’t run away but reached out and helped me through it.
Initially there was solidarity regarding breastfeeding and lack of sleep. Later it was toddler groups and tantrums and toilet-training – and lack of sleep. Now it is school runs and swapping babysitting for much-needed nights out and generally being on hand for emergencies and cups of tea. Two of them have just had new babies, and I’m doing my best, now that my kids are older and I’m marginally calmer, to pay them back with help and support. Lack of sleep is once more on the agenda.
They are an interesting and creative bunch, so we frequently manage to talk about stuff other than our kids – history and books, theatre and film, art and design – even if our conversations are constantly interrupted with bums that need to be wiped, disputes that need to be settled or tears that need to be kissed away.
They couldn’t care less about the state of my house, my hair or my wardrobe. They don’t tut if my children are being a total freaking nightmare. They are true friends; they are literally around the corner, and they have saved me from myself more than they can know.
While trying to think of a meaningful, amusing or uplifting story about my best friend, Emma, I came to the realisation that our whole friendship is an uplifting story. I met Emma at the age of six, and we have been best friends for more than 20 years.
We were separated at the age of 10, when she moved to Letterkenny from Galway. Losing your best friend at 10 is devastating, but that wasn’t the case for us. People said we couldn’t keep the friendship alive, that distance and time would force us to grow apart.
They were wrong.
Every Halloween, Christmas, Easter and summer, our loving parents drove us to and from each other’s homes. Four-hour drives before smartphones felt like an eternity. However, due to our parents’ faith in us, our friendship grew stronger. We became a part of each other’s families and celebrated all the major holidays together. We felt more like sisters than friends.
I have never met someone as like-minded as myself. I see my quirky and wacky sense of humour reflected in her and I try to emulate her passion and drive in my work and life. We have had each other’s backs through break-ups, girl fights, failed exams and hangovers from hell.
We have grown up together, travelled together, lived together and completed college together. We thought a four-hour drive would be the worst our friendship would have to endure, but she has lived in Belfast, Budapest and Brussels, while I have been living in Toronto, Sydney and Brisbane. Through the mediums of letter-writing, emails, text messages, instant messenger, phone calls and social media, she will always be the greatest friend I have ever known. A true soulmate.
Maureen Mac Niallais
If you pass a couple of carefree ladies driving towards Mayo this April, singing along to Supertramp, Squeeze or Adele, it’s probably me and my BFF, Ann, taking a trip together to catch up.
Last time was eight years ago. We have been friends for 45 years. Our youth was spent in Dublin. I have memories of summer days at Blackrock Baths, long summer evenings playing on the street.
Then we were running for the last 46A on a Saturday night, discos at Belvedere RFC and Stradbrook. A summer spent living in Eaton Square in London, grape-picking in France, working as chambermaids in Amsterdam and more. I emigrated to California 26 years ago, and our lives became very different. At first our communication was either by snail mail or was very expensive: long, inebriated phone calls, always on St Patrick’s Day and Christmas. Then came email and now Skype and Facetime. We can go very long periods of time without meeting up, but when we do it is like no time has passed.
Now when we take a walk around Seapoint in Dublin our pace is a lot slower, and we talk about grandchildren, blood pressure and stress at work, but it seems like yesterday that we walked the same path confiding in each other our hopes and dreams.
I wanted to marry David Bowie (RIP). She wanted Marc Bolan. We have not always agreed on each other’s life and love choices, but our friendship has always grown stronger. So if you do happen to see us, although we are more likely to be wearing wide-fitting comfort shoes and not over-the-knee, lime-green platform boots, in our minds we are the same young, carefree gals who jumped a train from Paris to Amsterdam and switched room numbers in a hotel one night.
- FROM BEST MATES TO BROMANCES: SERIES CONCLUDED All week on the Life pages we have been taking a closer look at friendship. All articles from this series are on irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/friendship