Wednesday, May 12, 2010

F is for Fellowship

By Judy Brandemihl

Where would I have been without the fellowship of my friends from memoir writing class?

You see, when we get older, friends (true friends) become more and more important. We’re retired for the most part, so we don’t have the daily interaction with co-workers, customers and associates that we once took for granted. Sadly, too, we often outlive our mates and sometimes many family members. Now too many of us live alone and depend on our Senior Center for a social life and the Memoir Writing class is the perfect place to find the very best of it. My husband and I are fortunate enough to still have one another’s companionship. Still, we need outside interests. I joined the memoir writing group several years ago and last year my husband joined me. Now he’s hooked and can’t wait for each Thursday afternoon with our friends there.

At our memoir writing class we not only exchange the mundane news of our week, we share our memories and our pasts. No, that’s not exactly it; what we share is our lives. Those folks who were once strangers that we might have passed without pause are now some of our closest friends. We freely confess our fears and our faults, knowing we will not be judged or ridiculed. We are among true friends, and they are like family. As in any family, there are some that we’re closer to than others, but they’re all there for you when you need them. They’re happy for you and sad for you. They celebrate with you and pray for you. They’re all a dear part of my life each week, and without them I’d feel as if I had lost my family.

We write our stories and exercise our brains at the same time. We laugh and we cry. We joke, encourage and give advice. We need and are needed. We’re not only writing our memoirs, we’re creating them.

In 2004, when I was diagnosed with lung cancer, my friends from class were there for me, giving me their support during the next difficult eight months. Just knowing this was a big part of my recovery.

Then, earlier this year, they were there for me again, this time to celebrate when I won a memoir-writing contest for the Long Beach Press Telegram. They didn’t allow me to stay shyly in the background. No, not them. They collected copies of the newspaper, asked for my autograph and praised my writing to any who would listen. My victory was their victory.

They are my classmates, yes, but even more they are my friends. Of course, more than anything, they are my “family,” and I’d hate to think of not spending each Thursday afternoon with them I’d hate to think that I wasn’t able to be there for them when they needed me.


  1. Judy, I heard you read this in class, I think. It is really great and so true. You said these words for all of us--especially for me. I'll be in to see you soon.

  2. In reading Judy's story I'm reminded of how precious our friends stories are to us, especially, when we realize that we may never hear them sharing more of their stories with us. Yet, whenever I read or remember their stories I feel a contection with them again.
    Our memoir stories are shared with honesty, trust, and at times with a tender vulnerability that may not even be possible within our own families.
    I count our memoir group leader, Bonnie Mansell, and our class as a true blessing.
    Love, Yolana

  3. Judy,
    Like I've said before-I would love to read a novel written by you as I fall asleep at night. Your stories bring me back to what's important in life.
    Kacie Cooper

  4. Sadly our Judy is no longer with us. She went home to the loving arms of her Heavenly Father on June 3rd, 2010. Judy's story on Fellowship tells us how much the members of Bonnie's writing class meant to her. She said not only were we friends but more than anything we were her "family."
    I have such fond memories of Judy. She was always doing nice things. When I first joined the class she introduced herself to me and gave me a sheaf of back handouts to bring me up to speed on what the class was doing. When my book came out she went on line and wrote a wonderful review from "Grandma Judy." On Valentine's Day she passed out cards to everyone and she often gave me cute little Irish mementos.
    A gifted writer, Judy was thrilled when she won the memoir-writing contest for the Long Beach Press Telegram and she richly deserved that award. Her class stories were priceless, some sad and many hilariously funny.
    The words of one of Judy's favorite songs "I'll be loving You Eternally" seem appropriate for me to say to Judy now. Nora