Their friendship was birthed at a Christ Church auction over a decade ago when they were bidding against each other over two paintings. Their friendship gave birth many years later to Marigold (the name they affectionately call the kidney one donated to the other.)-who has proven to be life-saving. The depth of their friendship is not lost on anyone. In many ways we can characterize Marigold as a nurturing faithful relationship between Rebecca and Jean. Marigold is like the glue which hold their common lives together-it offers them the blessing of looking each other eye to eye and enjoy being together because they feel at home in their friendship. Indeed, it will be fair to say that until the moment of discovery-where both Rebecca and Jean found out that they were a match for Jean to donate her kidney to Rebecca, their friendship had depth and meaning.
They have offered supporting presence to each other throughout the joys and challenges of life, and Rebecca is a godmother to Jean’s youngest son. When it became known that Rebecca would need a kidney transplant, Jean graciously offered to be her donor, and a few weeks ago, the transplant was successfully completed.
Over the past several weeks since I first learned about Marigold, I have wondered about the first meeting, the day that Marigold was born - when strangers became friends. Over the years, Marigold thrived and has given meaning to what it means to be friends, to count on the other, to be more than a friend and, in fact, to give practical meaning to an idea we read in John’s gospel: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
The image Jesus employs isn’t one where a priest offers the sacrifice; rather, the ultimate form of love is the sacrifice of one’s own life for one’s friends. In this particular case, love takes the form of friendship. It is a love that is fulfilled only in a deliberate sacrifice for the life of a friend.
Over the past several weeks since I first learned about Marigold, I have reflected on the value of friendship - my friendship with others, and your friendship with others. I have had to ask myself multiple times if I can ever see myself offering the gift of life to a friend. May I also ask you, "Do you see yourself offering the gift of life itself to a friend? Who is your friend? Who, and what, is a friend?"
Joan Walsh Anglund, in her book “A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You,” wrote:
A friend is someone who likes you.
It can be a boy or a girl,
or a cat, or a dog, or even a white mouse.
A tree can be your friend, too.
It doesn’t talk to you,
but you know it likes you.
These words do speak eloquently and forcefully about friendship. Friendships are part of our human nature. Friendships surround all of us. We do not have to create it, nor do we acquire it; friendship only awaits to be discovered by those who embrace the promise to walk together, side by side, into the future, and to be there for the other person. Friendship commands a kind of faithfulness that is related to a person and what he or she is, and not to what he or she does or has. Friendship is a free relationship. It arises out of freedom, and it preserves freedom. Friendship is conceived in freedom and, because of that freedom, friends open up free spaces for one another for personal development, rebuke, and even for the very gift of life itself.
What Marigold re-emphasized for me is that it is enough to know that you have a friend and a friend is there, and that what friends do for us are not services that have to be paid back. For how can Rebecca ever pay back, even if she had to? The truth is that what friends do for us is not a matter of an exchange of services, it is often more than that and I believe that is how both Rebecca and Jean feel. Remember, it is said that true friendship proves itself in misfortune - as sympathy and co-suffering. It also proves itself in happiness as a shared rejoicing, without envy.
Over the years, you and I may have made many countless friends. We've lost some along the way, but have also kept some. The reasons why we lose or keep friends are varied, but to hold on to our own Marigolds demands a kind of loyalty that affirms for us that to live is to give meaning to life - in all its forms.
The story of Marigold is a story about the blessings of friendship. The story about Marigold is a story about God’s faithfulness, and the presence of God’s hand guiding our lives to places of refreshment, fulfillment, and restorative healing. The story of Marigold touches on the deliberate offering of the self, for which our Lord Jesus Christ is our principal example.
If friendship is the soul of a friendly world, then my prayer is that we may also find that Marigold who would more than affirm our individual lives with their lives, but with self-emptying love, teach us to create that 'soulful' world where we all strive to proffer meaning to each life as being rich and beautiful.