“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up…A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Friend to Friend
Looking out my den window, I noticed two of my neighbors puttering slowly down the street. Ernestine, with her bald head snuggled in a woolen cap, held tightly to Patti’s supporting arm. Patti’s chestnut hair, just two inches long, shone like a victor’s crown – the crown of a cancer survivor.
In May of 1998, Patti felt a lump and feared the worst. A doctor’s visit confirmed that she had cancer. For three months, she endured chemotherapy followed by seven weeks of radiation, five days a week. As God would have it, her final treatment fell on Thanksgiving Day. Yes, she had much to be thankful for – a full life, a loving husband, and Ernestine Nevils, her new next door neighbor who had moved in two years before.
When Ernestine moved into the neighborhood, she and Patti connected as if they had known each other all their lives. Patti said, “Even though Ernestine is too young to be my mother, only fifteen years my senior, I feel as if God has given me just that, the gift of another mother.”
During Patti’s cancer treatment, Ernestine was right by her side, an extension of Jesus’ hands and feet providing love, encouragement, and support. By July of that year, Patti had lost all her hair, and Ernestine was the one person, besides Patti’s husband, with whom she felt comfortable not wearing her wig.
One year after her final radiation treatment, Patti was given the opportunity to return the kindness to Ernestine. In November of 1999, a trip to the doctor revealed that Ernestine had lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes. Now Patti was the nurturer. She took Ernestine to her first chemotherapy and explained what to expect. She told Ernestine what to eat, where to go to have a wig made, and how to deal with depression.
“I never had to tell Patti what I needed,” Ernestine remembered, “because she already knew, sometimes when I didn’t even know myself. She’d say, ‘Ernestine, I think you need to take a little walk. It’ll make you feel better.’ Now, if someone else had told me that, I might nave said, ‘Leave me alone. You don’t know how I feel.’ Put Patti did know how I felt. She’d traveled the road just a few months before. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God moved me here, right next door to Patti. He is good.”
As I watched the twosome make their way down the street that chilly November day, I whispered a prayer, thanking God for girlfriends in God… friends with whom we can be His hands and feet when one is too weak to walk unassisted, His strong arm when a burden is too heavy to bear alone, and His voice when a friend has forgotten the words to the song in her heart.
Dear Lord, I thank you that You designed women to live in relationship with each other. I thank you that just as you sent Ruth to Naomi and Elizabeth to Mary, You still send women to each other for mutual encouragement and support. Open my eyes to see someone who needs a dose Your love today and give me the wisdom to know how to be an extension of Your grace.
Now it's Your Turn
- When reading about Patti and Ernestine’s friendship, did you feel a sense of warmth because you remembered a time when a friend stood along side you during a difficult season, or did you feel a sense of emptiness because you lack similar relationships in your own life?
- The best way to have a friend is to be a friend. Is there someone you know who is struggling with life that God is nudging you to help?
- Think of two women who have walked along side you during a difficult time and write them a note telling them just how much their encouragement meant to you.
More from the Girls
For more on today’s topic see A Woman's Secret to a Balanced Life co-authored by Sharon Jaynes.
Girlfriends in God, Inc.