On Brian’s 40th birthday (am I allowed to say how old he is?!), I threw him a birthday party with friends from college and early marriage days. Twenty or more years of friendship. Six couples around a table celebrating and laughing and enjoying life together. Each year since, I’ve thrown the second or third annual “Brian’s 40th Birthday Party.” For his party this year, we surprised him by all (except one couple who couldn’t make it, *sniff, sniff*) going to a Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors concert with dinner beforehand.
Y’all, these people.
I can still remember the guys as freshman who slept on couches in the house Bri lived in his senior year. Two of the girls were instrumental in me actually meeting Brian (I wonder if they even remember that.) Groomsmen and bridesmaids and attending each others’ weddings. College band gigs and camping trips that fell apart and soccer games that ended in too many injuries. The monthly theme dinners and long jeep drives, off-roading in the mountains. Then children… between the six couples we have 23 children…bleary-eyed days of figuring this parenting thing out and having gatherings that ended much earlier because we had to get home to bed.
We have, as Drew Holcomb sings, “walked miles in another man’s shoes.”
Yes, they have walked miles with us, grieving with us, rejoicing with us, and carrying burdens with and for us for longer than we could have imagined it would be. And we gathered last Wednesday night. We traveled over the mountains to dinner, talking of work and life, still figuring out this parenting thing, only this time instead we were talking of soccer games for our children, track meets, school trips. Instead of toddler foibles, it was relationships and colleges and how. the. heck. do we do this?
Some of us grabbed dinner together before the show, sitting outside on a cool spring evening to once again celebrate, toasting Brian and life and friendship. We ate long and leisurely, steaks and venison and crab cakes. We joked with our waiter and one another and we forgot, perhaps for just a moment, that a PET scan was awaiting me the next morning. We just breathed in life.
And the show. Oh, y’all, Drew Holcomb is a mix of Americana, folk, and roots with all kinds of relationship built in. At one point we were all on the balcony together, and I watched my friends in front of me, her head on his shoulder, whispers in each others’ ears… from behind, Jas, would lean forward the say to Brian, “Aww, yeah…” as a new song started. He’d talk about what chords the band was playing and he’d laugh in sheer joy. Brian belted out songs along with the band, and held me tight, as they sang of love and loss and hard roads. And I cried (of course) tears of gratefulness and sadness and joy.
When it was over and we parted ways, there were long hugs, whispered, “I’m praying…” in my ears. Less than twelve hours later I’d be in a machine again, seeing where, what, if there was any spread to this monster that has attacked our life. Yet another mile for them to walk in my shoes.
They’ve walked well with us. So few people I know have so many college and post-college/early marriage friends that remained in the same town together.
We are so very, very blessed.
Here’s to Brian’s next annual fortieth party.
Thank you, my old friends, there truly are no words.
There’s a “good light shining in you.”
(And thank you, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, for another amazing show.)