I had a couple of good friends, Shirley and Virginia, and I spent a lot of time with those gals in days gone by.

If you’ve read my columns over the years, you are likely familiar with these two names. These ladies and I were friends from the time our daughters started school together until long after they were grown.

Our close bond was only broken by death — first Virginia’s, when she died of cancer in 2014 and then Shirley, when she passed away following a medical episode that resulted in a fatal car crash in 2017.

To say I missed them and the bond of that friendship doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. I am blessed to have many friends that I love dearly, but being a part of that cohesive, often silly, family-like unit was as comfortable as breathing to me. Those ladies will always hold a special place in my heart and I cherish the many memories we made together over the years.

I also wondered if I’d ever have that kind of special bond with another group of friends.

And I am happy to say that while you can never replace those you lose, as long as you live, I have found you can form new friendships and have new experiences.

I hit the road again a couple of weeks ago with two friends I met at my part-time job. Sarah, Mary and I set our sights on Savannah and on having three days of pure fun.

I think we succeeded.

We stayed in a lovely three-bedroom flat that faced beautiful Forsyth Park.

We laughed, we were silly, we ate (so many delicious restaurants), we danced, we took a ghost tour, a riverboat dinner cruise and spent an evening listening to jazz. We talked long into the night. We visited the famous Bonaventure cemetery, nearby Tybee Island and strolled along River Street for more food and a little shopping.

We ate (several times) at Clery’s, a little café featured in the book and movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We watched the ships come and go from Savannah harbor.

And maybe best of all, we met a number of interesting people and had lots of good conversation.

I couldn’t help but remember a similar trip a number of years ago with Shirley, Virginia and Virginia’s sister, Sherry. I thought about what a good trip that was and how much fun we had.

And to my surprise, instead of feeling sad, I simply felt blessed, blessed to have had that and blessed to have this new experience. How fortunate I have been, how fortunate I am, to have such good friends in my life. And not only the ones mentioned here, but the many others, all of whom I love and cherish. I don’t intend to take any of it, or any of them, for granted.

And in another new experience, just last week Charles and I had the opportunity to fly to Philadelphia with some of his co-workers and their spouses to celebrate their 40th anniversary working at the company. The company paid for the trip and provided us with meals and a tour of Philly. It was a great time and believe it or not, the first time that Charles and I have ever flown. I was so excited about that as I’ve long wanted to fly, but Charles not so much. In fact, his words to me had always been “you’re not getting me on a plane.” Well, perhaps I didn’t, but the company finally did. And he loved it just as much as I did.

And that brings me back to Shirley and Virginia.

Shirley flew a few times back and forth to see her daughter Jami, who moved to Colorado, though she was not a fan of flying. Virginia and I, on the other hand, were envious of her flying experiences and planned our own trip — to Maine — a place we’d both always wanted to go. Then Virginia got sick and we never got to take our first flight together. But I thought of Virginia when I boarded my first plane. I have an owl necklace that Virginia’s daughter, Christy, gave me (she gave an identical one to Shirley) after her mother passed. I wore that necklace that day in memory of my friend. She may not have been sitting beside me for that experience, but then again, in a way she was. And you can bet if I get to Maine, that necklace will be around my neck and Virginia will be on my mind.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to more road trips, more flights and more memories to cherish.

Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal. She can be reached at margie@mainstreetnews.com.

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