The morning before I left for Dave and Mary’s home in Traverse City, she emailed a video from her cat. “Hi, Auntie Iris,” said Mitty’s headshot in a cartoonish voice. “I’m so glad to hear you’re not allergic to me. I’m really looking forward to your visit. It’s going to be so much fun. Will you play with me?”

I laughed at Mary’s hilarious sense of humor, and marveled at the technological savvy of some septuagenarians.

Well, Mary’s not yet celebrated her seventieth. Age is the only advantage, if indeed it claims one, I hold above my friend. Mary’s gifted with enormous creativity and hospitality.

The moment I stepped into the house that Dave built on a lake, Mary greeted me with a glass pot of tulip stems on her kitchen’s island. “Just keep the bulbs covered with water and they should bloom,” she said.

Mitty, twice as wide since my trip nine years prior, hovered over his food bowl without a glance my way.

“Auntie Iris is here to play with you, Mitty,” I said.

He padded his polydactyl paws into Dave’s den.

Mary led my suitcase and me to her guest room. She’d hung a collage of our much younger selves on the door.

“You think of everything, Mary.”

“You know, I like you in short hair,” she said.

“It’s my youthful face, Mary.”

I remembered the room with the timbered lake view, grandbaby’s bed, and guest book on the nightstand. Two chocolate bars sat next to the book.

“For the drive home,” Mary said.

What a life. What a friend.

After a delicious lamb chop, garlic mashed potato, and salad dinner, Dave fetched from the garage a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Oh my, what a beauty!

“It’s Dave’s favorite,” Mary said.

“I appreciate that, Dave,” I replied.

They lit candles and sang Happy Birthday. Mary served generous slices with vanilla ice cream. Mitty returned to his bowl without a meow.

Next morning Dave made his famous Grampy’s Pancakes while Mary sliced fresh fruit and baked slabs of thick bacon. We relaxed with a cup of good, strong coffee.

“You know, this royal treatment is enough to last until my eightieth birthday,” I said.

Dave offered a wry smile.

Later, in precious sunshine, Mary drove us into Traverse City and up the Peninsula to a few wineries.

“I’ll buy you a glass, Mary. It’s the least I can do for all the effort and expense you’ve devoted to my birthday.”

Dear Reader, it is in moments such as those—alone with a dear friend who’s survived ovarian cancer to pour out her heart and soul into every good deed she does—I know the sacredness of life.

There, overlooking the frozen bay, Mary and I played as two wives and mothers. We laughed. Pondered our remaining years, children, grandchildren—our hope for the future, wherever it leads us.

That last night I found

Mitty curled up on my bed. He slept at my feet till morning.

Email Iris at