I've been so blessed to have the friends I have! Several friendships have lasted for multiple decades, a few have come and gone, remaining only sweet memories of what once was (even after a lengthy duration) and some have moved on from the realm of friendship into the category of family.

Someone once said, "There are friends, there is family, and then there are the friends that become family." My best friends are those people. I'm the trapeze artist and they are the net. I know I can fall and they'll be there to catch me. There is a true comfort, almost a coziness, in their presence. Their appearance in your line of sight is a balm on a disastrous day and an embellishment on a good one.

You encounter an economy of words and thoughts sometimes when you're together, because you've already shared so much of yourself, your life story with them. And they have done the same with you. So you may sit quietly, at times, just knowing there's no need to talk, because you already know.

For better or worse, you rediscover these truths at some of the most painful crossroads in your life. For me, it was the recent. sudden, death of my German Shepherd, Bella, which raised a magnifying glass to the people who choose to love me. They all gave me a safe place to grieve and continue to do so.

A perfect example is my friend Debbie McManus. She used to claim quite often that she never found a profession which suited her. I tell her all the time, that her "profession" is that of caretaker, and I'm not the only person who benefits from her caring nature.

Whether she is supervising a neighbor's child, visiting an elderly neighbor to make sure he's eating and that his weeds are under control or working at a book fair at an elementary school, she immerses herself in devoting time to others.

I spend nearly every Saturday evening at her and husband Loren's home, eating dinner, watching movies or TV, playing card games, talking and laughing - -a lot. She always sends me home with leftovers, "just to get me through the week", along with some new culinary discovery she may have made. She is the only person in my life who would spend hours picking raspberries, in the rain, and then bring them directly to me!

Debbie and Loren, (whom I have taken to calling "Mom & Dad") have randomly sent me flowers, done my yardwork, brought me landscaping rocks, helped me empty and refill a storage bin and supported me in ways, both emotionally and financially, which I dare not enumerate, without embarrassing them both.

Just like all of my best friends/ family members have! You know who you are. . .

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