August 1975. Her first day of college; away from the small town sitting in a dorm room in a different world. Suddenly the silence and the fear are broken by a “Hi, I’m Mary from Montana”.
Mary from Montana had just arrived and settled into another dorm room down the hall. Growing up in eastern Montana, far away from civilization, she never learned that, on the first day of college you are supposed to be reserved; be timid; let people get to know you. You just can’t burst into the room and announce yourself.
But that is how Mary from Montana met my wife, Marlys from Milroy, on their first day of college. Strangers in a strange land; a bold greeting that would launch many years of friendship. From that bold greeting to decades of shared memories; in a blink of an eye.
Yesterday, March 5, 2015. I am sitting with Mary and Marlys in a Bloomington restaurant; sharing wine and memories of nearly forty years of friendship. Weddings; births of seven children between us; vacations; and sharing of long distance fun. But the dinner yesterday evening marked the anniversary of the most painful event of our shared history. Mary’s husband Jim, a Montana rancher who brought joy to every room he entered, died in a plane crash exactly three years earlier.
A time to grieve together to be certain; a loss so painful the hurt will never completely end. Yet, also a time of joy; of memories; of Jim and the great man he was; and of friendship; of a bond the cut so deep it could never be broken.
Living hundreds of miles away; in completely different worlds; yet Mary enters the room and it’s like she never left; somehow, we are back to 1975 and simpler times. It is what true friendship brings; something that you cannot begin to describe; it is a marvel to observe how some friendships run so deep that time and distance and life and death cannot pull it apart. Even pain and struggles seem to bring us deeper. It is a gift beyond comprehension.