July 14th: The Day of Friendship.

Last Thursday marked the year anniversary of my friend's death. The day wasn't an explosive landmark, but rather a quiet and confused realisation at how fleeting our lives are. Even though the day celebrated her memory it was centred more around the idea of friendship than grief. What I mean is that as much as I loved Annie and as much as I still love her, I was more overwhelmed by how much the day was a testament to true friendship and godly fellowship than by how much I missed her.

Since her death people's lives have changed. We have taken faith more seriously, some of us have moved to new cities, started university, started internships, some of us have started businesses, we have begun and ended relationships, we've been baptised, booked plane tickets to go and follow our dreams: we have been massively pushed out of our comfort zones.

Grief is a very personal thing, in that it can be monstrously self-indulgent and terribly lonely, so gathering together was a great way to take our eyes of ourselves, put our arms around each other and fix our gaze on Jesus. The whole day was spent with people who knew her well. In the evening we gathered at the Wade's to chat, eat and watch the DVD shown at her funeral. There was laughter at baby Annie with her wide eyes and blonde hair and knowing smiles at the photos taken more recently. Then we gathered in the garden to worship God together, singing and praying in the setting sunlight. It was beautiful, but real and awkward. There was a disaster moment with a lantern that, instead of going upwards into the open air, decided to go sideways into a tree threatening to burn the street down. But that's how these things should be. Imperfect.

One of the highlights of the evening was spending time with and praying for Annie's parents, Bill and Anne. Their faith and attitude to life is the most humbling and inspiring thing to encounter. It was so right to spend the evening with them.

I ended the day in the recently refurbished Mcdonalds at Millpond with Grace. We sat on the wide seats by the window, scoffing our chips, avoiding chavs and chatting about her upcoming Australia adventure. It's then that the whole friendship thing got to me. I am so proud of us, our group of friends, for moving forward, for seizing life by the shoulders, for continuing and strengthening our relationship with Jesus, for supporting each other, for taking risks and for not being afraid to love fiercely and deeply all over again. We lay ourselves bare with each other over and over again, pursuing relationships that are prodded and pushed with accountability so that our deepest fears and struggles can be exposed without judgement. I love them so fiercely.

One of the last texts Annie ever sent me was 'Thank you for letting me be myself around you xx' and it's one of the things that I cling to when I think about friendship because we really did love and accept each other for who we were and who we were going to be. I guess that's why her absence rocks my world so much. But the thing is, she's no longer the only one to be this sort of friend to me, as a result of her death I have been more determined to tie strings of friendship that will last a lifetime. I have friends who love me at my worst, hug me in my ugliest moments and celebrate, without jealousy, my best moments and most deliriously happy seasons. A lot of people feel sorry for me when I tell them about Annie, I understand why and I appreciate their sympathy, but really you should all envy me because I have experienced friendship that is intimate, fun and god filled before AND after her death, and let me tell you, it's one of the greatest things in the world.

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