Tag Archives: categorizing friends

What Unites Us?

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photoshops an image in questioning what unites us.Many different things bring people together. Like love. Ice cream. Music. Dancing. A child dying. A rescue. Hurricanes that devastate communities. Shootings. Lost dogs. Laughing babies. Peace marches. Funerals. Horrible events when the world suddenly stops, like when the World Trade Towers collapsed. Like during the great New York City blackout of 1965.

The power went out 43 years ago, on Tuesday, November 9,  at 5:30pm as people were coming home from work and thinking about dinner. Just a kid at the time, I was living in the Long Island suburbs. What I remember most about the blackout was how all the neighbors gathered in the darkening street. Old and young, Catholics and Jews, the Irish and the Italians, the kids who went to parochial school and those in public schools, the people who lived in the big fancy houses and the ones from the dingy dilapidated ones, those who had voted Republican the week before and the ones who voted Democrat, the couple with the funny name who barely spoke English, the friendly guy with candy in his pockets who they called “Ree-tar-dead,” the girls who were popular and us girls who were not and the boys who teased us all, our fathers and mothers, and even the lady who had not left her home since her husband died—they all came out of their houses shocked, chatting up a storm, and watching the stars and full moon rising in the otherwise darkened sky. No one knew how far the dark stretched, or when—or if— the lights would ever come back on. But I felt safe, standing together with the whole neighborhood.

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about categorizing friends. Later, when I thought about it, I wanted to curl up in a dark corner and disappear. It sounded like I was splitting the people I care about into opposing teams. I don’t want to highlight things that separate us. We don’t need anything else to split us apart theses days. Globally, and as a nation, and even in our own communities and households, we are so divided.

It’s time to focus on what unites us. The things we have in common, our shared hopes and dreams. We should be recognizing the things that bring us all together. In peace. In kindness. And in good health and happiness. We all need to feel safe together.

What unites us?

Categorizing Friends

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops an image of all types of friends for categorizing friends.“How many children do you have?” The question used to put me in a quandary.
“One living and one dead,” I’d reply, needing to account for both kids. Needing to hang on to what I love, and peg it in place. I think that was how my categorizing started. Now I categorize everything, including friends. Online friends and offline friends. And offline friends are further classified into my Regular Friends and the new Blue Friends.

There is nothing really regular about my Regular Friends. Many knew me in my old life, knew my daughter. When she died, they showed up to support me and they continue to do so. These Regular Friends keep me grounded, anchored in the real ongoing world with news about their kids’ graduations and weddings, their grandchildren. These are mostly people I chose long ago. We are connected by history. I love them, love that they stuck by me. But. They don’t really get me. They don’t understand my fascination with afterlife, or what drives me to endlessly photo-shop my daughter’s face. Forgetting that I’d give my eyeteeth to have one more hour with my girl, they sometimes complain about their children, about petty things a daughter did, or a son did not do. I call them ‘regular’ because these friends are happily not initiated into the realm of child-loss. I’m grateful they don’t know this pain.

Then there are my newest friends. Bereaved mothers and fathers. I call them Blue Friends as they aren’t at their happiest, and I may never know them at their happiest. Many of these people are folks I would never have met if not for our shared grief experience. Now I am drawn to them. I see beauty and a particular grace about them. They are like cousins. We are fragile and broken in the same ways. These friends get who I am. Now. They understand the crazy things I do—we do—to keep connected to our children who died. They will plant candles on a cake and sing Happy Birthday to my dead daughter with me. When I desperately need to talk about my girl, my Blue Friends listen without feeling uncomfortable. There is something very special about the way we can laugh together despite our crushed hearts.

In an unpredictable world, where a child you love can disappear forever, I need friends of both types: those who know, and those who are blessedly ignorant of how everything changes and everything hurts when you lose a child. I’m grateful for all my friends. Having them has made everything almost manageable. Stepping cleanly from one set of friends to the other, sometimes several times in one day, I always felt like I was on solid ground. But that changed last week when one of my Regular Friends had her world pulled out from under her— her child died—and suddenly, even assigning categories can’t stop the conundrum of change as a Regular Friend turns Blue.


Best friends, foodie friends, crazy friends, needy friends…. Is it okay to categorize your friends?