My friend Brenda.

Nobody would ever call me a feminist. No poster board signs decrying the treatment of women are stuffed in the back of my closet waiting for the next march in Washington. No pink hats in my past or future.  Nothing that would make Ashley Judd tear up or give a speech.  Honestly, I have known too many good men in my life to ever jump on the bandwagon of women are inherently better just because they are women.  I have known some truly awful humans that happened to be female and some truly great people who happened to be male.  I prefer to judge people by the quality of their character.  I want to know what their middle is made of.  This brings me to my friend Brenda.

Brenda has been dealt an unfair hand.  Her husband that she was married to for forty- plus years walked out on her.  He walked out on their history and future.  He walked out on their traditions.  He walked out on their kids and grandkids.  He walked out on the space that they had created together in this crazy, scary world.  Their safe little circle they came home to at the end of every day no longer exists.

In fact, it has been obliterated.  Brenda had no choice but to sell their home and furniture and Christmas decorations.  Mostly, everything that was part of that old life had to be sold to cobble together a future for Brenda.  A future and a life that Brenda certainly never imagined she would be asked to live.  It will be a future in an efficiency apartment in a new city with new doctors and new neighbors and even a new grocery store to get used to.  It will be hard.  And lonely.  And I’m angry that she has to do it all.  I’ve been struggling to understand how best to help my friend navigate this new path her ex-husband’s choice forged for her.  Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve done a good job.  I tried.  But, it’s hard.  It’s hard because it’s so huge.  How do you ever process the loss of over forty years with someone?  Especially when they choose to leave?

Sit with that for a minute.

It’s almost overwhelming.  To ask someone to do it at a time in life when most of us are slowing down and relaxing into our relationships is just mind boggling.

Then, the other day I was out shopping for presents for my sweet friend before she moved.  I happened to draw the most talkative cashier in the world as I was checking out.   She wanted to know who I was shopping for.  Were the gifts for Christmas?  Would the person be excited?  I was tired, and before I knew it I found myself telling her they were for my friend whose marriage had fallen apart after 44 years and that we were having a going-away party for her that night.  This nice lady with the Christmas tree pin just blinked at me.  She didn’t know where to go next in the conversation.  She shook her head and said, “She won’t survive that.”  I took my receipt and went to my car and cried.  But, somewhere in those tears came this small still certainty that has been growing ever since.

The talkative lady with the Christmas tree pin is wrong. Flat wrong.

Brenda is going to survive. I know this without a doubt. Heck, she already has.  She made hard decisions and sold her home and said good-bye to beloved neighbors.  She toured apartments and loaded a moving truck and is planning to spend Christmas in a new zip code.  My amazing friend is definitely going to survive.

But, more than surviving, I believe Brenda will thrive.  Her old house was one of her grandkids’ favorite places to be.  They had sleepovers and treasured traditions and I would bet money she will create that same feeling in her new apartment.  I’m going to guess her little guest room will be one of their new favorite places to be.  She and I spent afternoons cooking in her last kitchen.  Well, she cooked and I talked her ear off and then she sent me home with plates of treats.  Chances are that will happen again someday in her new city and her new kitchen, because she will make sure I feel welcome there and I can promise I will get tired of not seeing her.  She’s the kind of person you get in your car and drive five hours to see.  I believe she will find a new church and she will befriend her neighbors that need her and she will laugh and she will make new friends.

All of this will happen because, with everything that was smashed and shattered and taken away from her, nobody can take who she is in her middle away from her.  She is kind and family centered and a good friend.  She is Brenda and she’s totally kick-ass and I love her.  So, I guess I would make a sign and put on a hat and go march in a parade for her.  Not just because she makes me proud to be a woman, but because she makes me proud to be a human.  You got this friend.