And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately–both old and new, those friends who are near and far, and those who have passed away.

In 2015, our Circle lost a dear sister. Judy passed away only a year or so after being diagnosed with a rare, incurable, fast-growing cancer. For the last several weeks of her life, Judy was unable to leave her bed and wanted few visitors, but it was important for our Circle to continue sending our love and prayers. Even if we weren’t physically present, we wanted her to feel that we held her in our heart. Each of us committed to a day of the week that we would send Judy some kind of card, note or greeting. In this time of pandemic, just as we did with Judy, we can stay connected with our loved ones.

Judy, Laura, Ruth, Joyce, me and Katie–some of our Circle who came to my first SoulCollage® retreat at St. Benedict Center.

Judy was a lover of SoulCollage®—she came to my first retreat at St. Benedict Center and fell in love with the process. She started meeting weekly to cut, paste and create with our friend, Beth. The practice became a form of expression and prayer for her and she even shared it with her daughters and grandchildren on one of their last vacations together on Captiva Island. Making and sending a SoulCollage® card to honor Judy and our Circle was a form of creative prayer for me.

I was drawn to images that represented the strong, hard-working, loving women that had met together monthly for several years. I hoped the card would make Judy smile, bring her a little joy and remind her of the bond we all shared. It also gave me the chance to put images and words to how I feel about our Circle.

Circle of Friends: A SoulCollage® card

I am one who is accompanied on this life journey by a circle of friends; women who are my spirit sisters.

We join hands in prayer and solidarity, in comfort and thanksgiving. We share joy and pain and the hard work of life.

We bring our inner child and wise woman-self, our woundedness and our resiliency to our circle. We help each other navigate the storms of life—marriage, divorce, children, pets and parents; illness, death and healing; beginnings, transitions and endings.

Our faith in God, our desire for learning and our longing to experience the Divine in our ordinary lives, connect us to faith traditions since the beginning of creation. We read books about God, gratitude and faith, being a woman, living from our true self and navigating the seasons of life. We read and reflect and talk and talk and talk. 

We are friends in this moment in time, but believe that our connectedness runs deeper than the present… perhaps always has been and always will be. We are anam caras, soul friends. We are spirit sisters, a circle; complete even when one of our souls pass over.

I’m beyond blessed to have both old and new friends, the silver and the gold of friendship….these Girl Scout song lyrics capture it perfectly:

Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.

Judy was a newer friend for me; just 8 or 9 years; for my friend, Beth, their friendship dated back almost 50 years. A shared history of a long-time friend is a special bond. The years of experiences don’t need retelling; they are felt and known. Insecurities, pain, growth—our long time friends know us at a soul level and love us anyway; they love us BECAUSE.

Our circle has a few friendships that span the decades and some that are more recent, but we have come together because we want to share our soul journey together. Our circle started and stopped, started again with just a few… and then a few more were welcomed, and then another. And then it just fit. It felt complete, like a circle.

 “Friendship is the linking of spirits.  It is a spiritual act, not a social one.  It is the finding of the remainder of the self.  It is knowing a person before you even meet them.  I am not so sure, then, that we so much find a friend as it is that friendship, the deathless search of the soul for itself, finds us.” 

-The Friendship of Women, Joan Chittister

When Judy received her diagnosis of cancer, we listened and asked questions. We prayed for healing, tried to share words of hope and mourned when we realized that this was not a cancer her body could survive. We delighted when Judy continued to come to our gathering wearing her beautiful, life-giving smile. But as she grew more weak, we saw her less and less. She embarked on her last months of life by spending her time with a few long time friends and her family.

A Circle celebration of life for Judy.

Judy’s spirit will live on as part of our circle, just like we feel the presence of those sisters who have to work late or go to a family event or a kid’s football game during our monthly gathering. We hold her in our heart forever.

A circle is round, it has no end.

Card name: Colleen

My eternal gratitude belongs to Colleen, whose idea it was in the first place to start a Circle, a group of women who would support each other in their spiritual journey.  Colleen’s spirit lives on in the Circle for those who came along for the second generation as well. Colleen passed away in 2005. We are a Circle that has no end.

A circle is round,
it has no end.
That’s how long,
I will be your friend.

More Circle memories with Judy…