Originally posted May 15, 2010

Today after prayer services at my synagogue, I headed to a church for a graduation ceremony for one of my best friends. My friend Samira had earned her masters in divinity. Samira grew up in Iran, a Muslim, had once tried to convert to Judaism, felt a deep connection to Sufism, converted to Christianity, became a devoted Baptist, and is now about to be ordained as an Episcopalian priest. When Samira and I met, I was a devoted Baptist, had become involved with Sufism, and five years ago, I converted to Judaism.

Samira's and my paths have diverged wildly as we've searched for our spiritual homes, yet we remain very close friends. A couple of months ago, her mom was visiting from Iran, and the three of us had lunch, Samira translating, since her mom and I don't know each other's languages. Samira and I meet for lunch or dinner, chat on the phone, say "I love you" before we hang up, and attend each other's life-changing events. Next month, I'll be at her ordination when she becomes an Episcopalian priest, and I'm so intensely happy for her.

So many recent events, including my friendship with Samira, have me thinking about relationships. I have friends from high school, grade school, even from church nursery! Several friends from junior high are like sisters to me. There is little I wouldn't do for them.

I've been to two graduations and parties for one of my nieces in the past few months. Technically, she's my ex-husband's niece, but outside of this blog, she's simply my niece - and one of my closest ones. We text, meet regularly for lunches and dinners, remember each other's birthdays, and love each other with an affection and devotion that we don't feel for everyone.

When I divorced and remarried, my husband Joe's family became my own, deeply and sincerely. I loved my stepchildren and grandchildren immediately and completely. In fact, every person in Joe's family has found a special place in my heart. They didn't replace anyone, and I didn't have to shove anyone out of my heart to let them in. The heart is expandable like that.

Of course, love isn't always returned. Sometimes people I love the most simply don't love me back.

But does that hurt me?

Oh yeah. Badly. And it has a domino effect. It hurts other people, too, and those hurts can last a lifetime.

When that happens, I'm tempted to close my heart, even if it's just a tad, because I really don't want to subject myself to more pain. But I know if I do that, it will close a little more the next time someone hurts me, and a little more the time after that. And that just isn't worth it, to me or to the people who might be affected by my withdrawal.

So if you're in my life, know that I love you. It doesn't matter to me how widely divergent our spiritual paths might be. It doesn't matter that years might separate our visits (as happens with some of my childhood friends), and it doesn't matter if we don't talk every day, or even every week. My heart remains open to you and I love you - sincerely and completely.