The Beginning of Our Lasts

DSC_1489This week, I started the nonfiction audiobook by Anna Quindlen, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Of course, I was only half listening due to the fact that my toddler was in the backseat demanding snacks and water and for me to hit the play button for her DVD of Curious George.

However, one section stood out to me. The section about girlfriends. Quindlen said—and I’m merely paragraphing here—that if you ask a woman how she gets everything done, she will claim that answering emails while getting her hair cut is the answer. Or that having a to-do list is the way to go.

You get the idea. Quindlen ran down through a whole array of sugestions, and then she said, “But if you ask a woman how she gets through her days, she will have one answer: girlfriends.”

DSC_1481I thought of that sentence last night as my book club sisters and I sat around the outdoor fireplace at our home.

We have been meeting for almost six years, and we love each other deeply, but we are about to disband.

We have continued meeting despite moves and job changes and babies and life. Yet now our unofficial leader is moving overseas in the fall, and there’s no way we can continue to go on.

And so we have made out a list of lasts: one last hobo pack/s’mores night at my house, complete with a slumber party and a pancake breakfast; one last sushi and ice-cream night; one last pool party with all the kiddos running around in their ruffled bathing suits and multi-colored floaties making them appear to have mutant arms. . . .

One by one, we are slowly but surely checking off these “lasts.” Each are bittersweet, and yet I feel that we cherish them all the more because we know another won’t come around again.

DSC_1510This morning, after our pancake breakfast, I hugged my book club sisters goodbye and called my mother, who is in Pennsylvania with her younger sister, who has been battling cancer for over a year.

“Jolina, Cheryl went to be with Jesus this morning,” she said, and I was so shocked, I just stood barefoot on the porch and looked at the detritus of the previous night’s festivities: foil, charred logs, a sodden graham cracker, which my toddler daughter attempted to eat until I absently drew her away.

“It—it happened so fast,” I stammered, not even able to cry, for we had all remained optimistic until the cancer spread to her brain. Still, I did not think she would lose the battle so soon.

“I watched Little Women last night,” my mom said, weeping. “I forgot about that scene where the sister dies.”

The tears began streaming down my face then; I had not forgotten.

After my best friend was diagnosed with cancer, we watched that movie together—one of our favorites—and during that scene, I laid my head carefully in her lap and wept as she stroked my hair, praying that she would not be taken from me.

My best friend has not been taken from me. She is actually on her way here, as I sit on the front porch and feel the drizzle of rain on my face and listen to the birds calling to each other in the distance, a near-perfect requiem.

And I am reminded of what Anna Quindlen said: “But if you ask a woman how she gets through her days, she will have one answer: girlfriends.”

She is right, and when my best friend arrives, I am going to hug her and hug her and hug her—drawing comfort from her warm presence and thanking God, once again, for letting her remain in my life, where each day is a new beginning and not the beginning of our “lasts.”

My mother and her sister, Cheryl, back when they sang together.

My mother and her sister, Cheryl, back when they sang together.

This week, I challenge you: if you have a sister, a best friend, or a group of girlfriends who are like your sisters, take some time to call them, or write them a letter, or swing by their house for a hug. You don’t need a reason. We just need to share the love that composes this blessed, fleeting life.

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Jolina Petersheim, bestselling author of The Midwife and The Outcast, and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but now live on a solar-powered farm in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with their young daughters. Visit with Jolina at

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  1. Lisa Wingate says

    In tears… what can I say, Jolina? Beautiful truth, beautifully told and also a good reminder of what matters.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt. Sending up prayers for your family as she unpacks her suitcase in heaven.

    And sending a hug your way, long distance.


  2. says

    Loving on you from here, Jolina. Sorry about your aunt’s passing. May the memories grow ever sweeter and less painful for your mother and your entire family during the arrangement and the services and the days to come…

  3. says

    Thank you! Great story. I have a sister that won’t speak to me anymore. Her loss. But I have great Sister-friends who love me and I love them. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them just as I once was with my own sisters. Taking care of ill parents is hard. But as I told my sister you can’t pick and choose how you want to help. We need to all work together. That was it she made up excuses on why she couldn’t talk to me Or help my parents. Returned my birthday presents and has cut me out of her life. It’s just not worth the stories she tells and the drama she causes.
    Love Little Women. Book and movie. Along with Beaches and Fried Green Tomatoes.

    • says

      So sorry for your pain, Bonnie. My best friend is the closet thing to a sister I have, and I cannot imagine my life without her. Praying for reconciliation in your future! And, yes, those are some of my favorite movies as well!

  4. says

    Wow…..beautiful post, Jolina. I’m sorry to hear of your family’s loss. Saying goodbye is never easy, even if we know we’ll see our loved ones again. And saying goodbye to girlfriends is a definite heart-tugger!

  5. Julie Cantrell says

    prayers, sweet jolina. i love reading about your family’s strong bonds…and i’m sad to read about your loss. may you all find peace and comfort in the beautiful memories, and amen to the chorus…good friends do indeed get us through this life. hugs, j

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