Last week, I lost a dear friend. Ken Smikle, the husband of one of my closest friends, Renee Ferguson. A remarkable man, marketing industry pioneer and part of a great couple. Our children grew up together, and we have spent many years sharing our lives, loves, business ideas, successes, losses, joys, tears–and much, much laughter.
Renee and I are like sisters. We are there for each other. When Ken had a major heart attack on August 20, I stopped everything to be at her side. Her son called me distraught as I was headed to the airport to be with my 94-year-old Mom. Jason said, “Amy, my Dad just had a heart attack!! I can’t get there yet from NY and my Mom is alone–can you PLEASE come to the hospital right away?” I knew I could–and had to–delay my flight to be with my friend. To hold her hand. To help her breathe. To pray with her.
As the next three weeks went on, we spent many hours at the hospital hoping for a miracle. Several of us circled the wagons of friendship, so that she could be strong for the fight ahead. Bringing stories to laugh about, books and newspapers to read, hugs to give energy, pizza to eat. More than once the nurses had to remind us that there were too many in Ken’s ICU room! But we had to be there to support our friends.
In my research for Sizzling After 60, I have read about the Blue Zones, regions of the world known for the longevity of their inhabitants. Dan Buettner has written three best selling books about the Blue Zones, and they are on his website http://www.bluezones.com. According to a special National Geographic Report, there is no one secret as to why people in the Blue Zones live longer, happier lives. Dan has noted that residents of the Blue Zones practice nine healthy lifestyle habits that help them have healthier, longer lives including what they eat, daily rituals, social networks, physical environments and sense of purpose. I will go into all of them in later blog posts but here, I will note a key one that I have seen in action through this recent challenging time with Ken and Renee: Having The Right Tribe. Social circles that support healthy behaviors.
For example, on the Japanese island of Okinawa, long cited for having the longest-living women, the women create moais, groups of five friends who are committed to each other for life.
I am part of my Renee’s moai, and she is part of mine. Proudly. She has more than five friends who are in her moai for sure–but all are long term, close and THERE. I have witnessed the transfer of energy in the darkest moments when her resiliency was weak–we stepped in to give her our power so she could continue.
When Ken took his last breath, Renee’s loving family surrounded her. And so did her moai. And as the next several days have unfolded, with the inevitable and painful tasks ahead, her moai has been there with food, ideas, stories, simple company, communications to others, whatever was needed. Often, laughter was the medicine needed to bring resilience. Spontaneous prayers, too.
Life will happen. To all of us. To me, knowing that you have a moai there to hold you up when those moments knock you down can power up your resilience, and help you to press on. When that job gets to be too much. When your children work your nerves. When your parents are sick. That divorce. The lost account. That last breath.
Sometimes I used to get real busy going for that brass ring…taking care of family…my relationship…paying bills…running here and there…and not taking enough time for friends. Yes, real friends understand when you are overwhelmed, busy and can’t talk every day. But as more and more people I know and care about have left this earth, I am making SURE that I make time for the true friends, my moai, in life. They have to feel me, and I them. Research notes that taking friends for granted can shorten your life, and keeping positive friends close can enhance it!
I’m blessed to have friends going back to nursery school, elementary school in my moai. And friends that have joined my moai on life’s journey during later years. They are precious jewels. Strong as diamonds. With the right word, a hug, a recommended strategy, they can drill through the strongest of life’s walls of tribulation with the power of their friendship and give me the resiliency I need.
Who is in your moai? Let them know you love them. That you are there for them. You will need each other and when you do, there’s nothing better than knowing the power of their resilience is right there. Unconditionally.
I hope you can see that for me, there are a lot of layers to sizzling in life. In a nutshell though, sizzling is about keeping all the things that positively fuel my life burning bright. What about you? I’d love to hear from you right here.
So friends, take care. Cherish each other, and always–Sizzle On!
Talk to you next week.