Tina, Mary, me, Gloria. Graduation Day, 1970.

Tina, Mary, me, Gloria. Graduation Day, 1970.

Mary, Tina, and Gloria were the main characters in the mini memoir of my life called The College Years.

Here we are about to graduate. Tina appears to have the stage.

There were a few things we still didn’t know. πŸ™‚

Like all graduates, we had no idea of where we would ultimately live, travel, or work.

We scattered.

We wanted to stay close, but it was hard to do.

Sometimes we wrote letters. Sometimes we called. Sometimes we even got together.

After a decade, there were children.

After a few more decades, the children began to fly away.

So we flew also, back to each other.

We celebrated our 50th birthdays together, starting an annual tradition.

Now we are all grandmothers.

Can you match the faces in the photo above with the ones below?

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, May, 2015

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, May, 2015


We graduated from college, but we didn’t graduate from friendship!

Today I read this wonderful meditation on friendship by the poet David Whyte.

Here are his concluding words:

the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.

Do you agree with David Whyte? Please testify below!

Shirley Showalter


  1. Merril Smith on June 3, 2015 at 11:49 am

    How wonderful that you have remained friends through the years and the distance!

    My husband and I have close college friends–the husband works at the same school as my husband–and some other couples that we met his first year as a teacher. It doesn’t matter if we don’t see any of them for a couple of months. We just pick up where we left off. πŸ™‚

    • shirleyhs on June 3, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      Merril, that’s exactly what happens to us also. We don’t have to spend a lot of time on the non-essentials. We can just pick up old threads of conversation and bear witness to what has changed since we last met.

      So glad you know this joy also.

  2. Richard Gilbert on June 3, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Neat post, Shirley. I totally agree with Whyte! What a gift to be seen and to see another.

    • shirleyhs on June 3, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks, Richard, for your testimony. To see and be seen is a desire that we sometimes make light of. But at the deepest levels, it names one of our most basic needs.

  3. Kathleen Friesen on June 3, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you, Shirley for a poignant post that includes David Whyte, an author I recommend.

    Yes, I know the gift of brothers and sisters of the heart. The friends who, in word and presence, accompany me through the spiral of life. With gratitude that I am not alone, that we are not alone … Kathleen

    • shirleyhs on June 3, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      I like that phrase, Kathleen, “brothers and sisters of the heart.” And this one too: “the spiral of life.” You have known that spiral, including the valley of death, and you have walked it both alone and with those brothers and sisters. We all are going down the valley one by one. Isn’t it great to also have company on the journey?

  4. Laurie Buchanan on June 3, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Shirley β€” I love looking at the two photos and doing a compare and contrast with those ever-smiling faces.

    And YES, I absolutely, completely, and totally agree with David Whyte’s meditation of friendship:

    “…the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another…”

    • shirleyhs on June 4, 2015 at 8:18 am

      Thank you, Laurie. The sight of the essence of another person is a sacred thing. I wrote a poem about my three friends called “Martinoria” when I was in college. I was entranced by the essences of Mary, Tina, and Gloria.

  5. Marian Beaman on June 3, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    I can surely testify to the power of witness as you describe here. In fact, Joann Metzler Herr, whom I feature on my blog post today would be a prime example. Our friendship and kinship goes back more than fifty years, touching in short visits, reunions, and Christmas letters.

    David Whyte is one of my favorites. When I read Crossing the Unknown Sea I found a quote I used recently. Poets as prose writers know how to catch the rhythm.

    It was easy to match the faces in the photos, a clever idea, Shirley.

    • shirleyhs on June 4, 2015 at 8:20 am

      Marian, I read that great post on my iPhone and have waited until I could get to a computer to respond. You have displayed joie de vivre all your life — even under all that head gear. πŸ™‚

      Off to leave a comment on your post. I hope some readers will follow me. They won’t be disappointed!

  6. Sherrey Meyer on June 4, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Shirley, poignant and lovely post on friendship. I do agree with David Whyte’s words. True friends are always friends, no matter the space of time between gatherings. Friendship is trust, truth, and compassion one for the other. How fortunate we are to find a good friend!

    • shirleyhs on June 4, 2015 at 9:54 am

      Sherrey, thanks for adding these descriptions of a true friend. Isn’t it great that we can find people through our mutual love of writing and memoir who display these same traits and therefore become friends though separated by thousands of miles?

      Thanks for being my online friend. So wonderful that we met.

  7. Melodie Davis on June 4, 2015 at 6:34 am

    You are fortunate to have these two photos with the same women–but of course way more, the long lasting friendships! How rich this makes you. πŸ™‚ I wish so much I could locate my freshman roommate but even the alumni office at EMU no longer has contact. She was very special, one Paula Brown (and matching brown skin) from New Jersey who had never met a Mennonite before she first set foot on the EMU campus, and had never even visited campus. She ended up in education. Can’t find her on Facebook, too many with that name!! Anyway, a fun post and a great new and different angle on friendship.

    • Audrey on June 4, 2015 at 9:42 am

      I had three roommates in college, all of whom have died. I miss and remember the fun and stimulation of conversations and laughter with Eileen, Esther and Sara Ann. They were a rich part of my life: Eileen and I graduated together from Christopher Dock; Sara Ann and I were Words of Cheer penpals and roomed together our freshman year at EMC. Wild [sometimes] memories formed with Wonderful Women!

    • shirleyhs on June 4, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Melodie, I too hope that you can find Paula Brown. Re-connecting after all these years would be amazing. Perhaps someone who knows her will read these words and help you find her.

      How our world has changed. Now students make campus visits, website applications, and are already digital natives (and therefore leaving traces everywhere) before they ever enroll in college.

  8. Linda on June 4, 2015 at 9:59 am

    I totally agree. Yesterday I had my ‘Hutterite Diaries’ book launch ay McNally Robinson Bookstore. It was a successful event, largely because so many family friends came. None surprised my sister and me more than a friend we hadn’t seen in years…and that didn’t matter. He was there to celebrate with us and it was like we’d seen each other only last week.

    • shirleyhs on June 4, 2015 at 10:43 am

      Oh Linda, that must have been an exciting day for you! I remember well the launch of BLUSH at my home church in 2013. I could not have done it without family and friends covering all the little details. It was like a wedding. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by here. I hope everyone reading this comment will click on your name and go find your DELIGHTFUL memoir. I’m off to read your most recent blog post!

  9. shirleyhs on June 4, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Audrey, wild and wonderful women make great memories. So much loss these three must represent in your life. Another reminder to cherish our friends while we have them!

    • Audrey on June 4, 2015 at 10:29 am

      One of my most cherished memories of Eileen is from our wedding reception three years ago – she was there, and was one of those who stood to give us her blessing, sharing some memories with the guests. That was on April 14, 2012. She died just before Thanksgiving of that year.

      I can still hear her laughter from our college days – as well as her quiet, thoughtful take on more serious topics.

  10. Joan on June 4, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Shirley, How lucky you are to have these friends and I too love and agree with David Whyte’s definition of friendship.

    • shirleyhs on June 4, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      It’s great having you as a witness too, Joan. So glad we have found each other through our mutual love of writing (well, at least some of the time we love it, right?). πŸ™‚

  11. Marylin Warner on June 16, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Your post, and David Whyte’s quote, combine to remind me of the most valuable post-college-graduation reunion I had with two former roommates. It was twenty-one years after graduation; we lived many states away from each other, and life had gotten in the way of reunions.
    Then the daughter of one wrote to the other two of us, saying her mom had suffered a stroke and could we please write to her and send tapes of our voices. We did both, plus we also flew to her side and spent a week so her family could have a break. It was a joyous, happy helping and caring visit, a reuniting based on love.

    • shirleyhs on June 17, 2015 at 10:00 am

      Marylin, thank you for adding this story. How moving. She asked to hear your voices (a sign of how she treasured you despite the physical distance between you). And then you dropped everything to go “witness” her and her role in your lives, giving yourselves in love.

      May we all know friendship like this!

      Have you blogged about this experience?

  12. Elaine Mansfield on June 17, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Lovely. I met a group of women at a meditation center in the late 1960s. We studied philosophy and meditated together, We raised our kids together and stood by each other. We’re still there for each other, even if some flew the coop. I’ll go to CA in July to visit one and then she and I will take a road trip north to visit another and my son. I lean into that sense of sisterhood and look forward to a shared adventure.

    • shirleyhs on June 17, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Wonderful, Elaine. So glad you have these friends to share the joys and sorrows of life. You get to combine reunion with travel, a delight.

      I too will be visiting with women friends in July — a group that gathered first in the 1990’s when we were all women college presidents. We have been through many hills and valleys since then, which makes our friendship all the more precious.

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