I open the book. My eyes scan the table of contents first, looking for my name, not quite sure where I will find it. And then I see. A little thrill rushes through me as I stare at it. Samantha Brinn Merel. First, maiden, married. Partly the name I have had forever, and one I adopted a little over three years ago. It seems strange to see it all in print. Almost like I am looking at someone else's name instead of my own. I stand in my reading room, surrounded by all the books that I can't live without. I scan the brightly colored spines featuring the names of my favorite authors, and suddenly it hits me.
It's a dream.
I sit down on the couch with the beautiful book in my hands and I flip to my essay. I settle back against the pillows and I read my own words. Words I have barely been able to go back to since I first wrote the piece months and months ago. Words borne of sadness, loneliness and even a little bit of despair. Words that left me aching and vulnerable and forever changed. Words that describe a friendship that is no longer; a friendship the loss of which has left me with an empty space in my heart that I sometimes feel might never fill up again.
And then I turn back to the beginning of the book and I read other words. Words written by smart and amazingly talented women. Words of love and friendship and sisterhood. Words that describe the way that these relationships shape us and change us and make us who we are. Courageous words. Beautiful words.
I am at once in awe that my essay lives in these pages alongside theirs and lifted up by what all of these essays together have done. And I start to think about my other story. Not the story of friendship loss, but of the ones I am lucky enough to have.
I think about my sisters who are the missing pieces of myself. Who know me all the way through in a way no one else can, and I them. I think about phone calls and e-mails and Facetimes and weekend visits. About shared books, shared recipes and shared secrets. About knowing that they walk beside me no matter where I am. About being so proud of them and the lives and families that they are building. About knowing that none of this will ever change. That we only get closer as we get older, and as time marches on.
And I think about my best friends, the sisters of my heart. I think about the little girls we used to be, the women we are now, and the path we walked together to get here. I think about late night phone calls and early morning e-mails, Tuesday night dinners and Saturday night manicures. I think about seeing them as I walked down the aisle at my wedding, and standing at the end of the aisle watching them walk down at theirs. I think about laughter and tears, joy and sadness. I think about how lucky I am to have these women in my life, and to know that I always will.
Female friendship is a complex beast, full of joy, pain and power, as this book so lovingly shows. And I have experienced it all. But today, in the company of these fifty other women who have opened their hearts and shared their stories, I celebrate the joy and the love that friendship has brought to me.
And I am grateful.