The Buddy System
Friends in Need
Nancy Sharp & Julie Malek
Nancy, 44, a freelance writer, moved to Denver in part to be closer to Julie, also 44, a high school teacher.
Nancy and Julie were freshman roommates at Northwestern University in 1984 and have been best friends ever since. Nancy ended up in New York City and Julie settled in Denver with her college sweetheart and their two kids. For years it was mostly a phone friendship, but with frequent visits back and forth. Then, after a seven-year illness, Nancy's husband, Brett, died of a brain tumor, leaving her alone with twin toddlers. "Julie was an anchor for me," Nancy says. Two years later Nancy moved to Denver -- in part to be closer to her friend. She was there for Julie when her parents died in quick succession -- and Julie was there to pick out the "date-worthy outfit" Nancy wore the first time she met the man who's now her second husband. The old friends still talk just as much as ever but can only see each other once a week.
The big move: "I was a little nervous when Nancy decided to move to Denver," Julie admits. "It felt like a lot of responsibility for me, and a major transition for a family that had been through so much trauma. But Nancy built a new life for herself here so quickly. We went to an event after she'd only been out here a couple of months, and she was saying hello to more people than I was!"
Dealing with loss: "When her husband was sick and when he passed away, Nancy needed to be able to call somebody up and cry," says Julie. "But when my parents died, I needed to grieve in private. Nancy helped me in more practical ways. Right after my mom died, she brought over Epsom salts and aromatherapy oils. That was exactly what I needed -- to take a bath and relax."
Funniest moment: "At one point when Brett was sick, Nancy came out here and I said, 'That's it, we're going to a sex store,'?" remembers Julie. "We walked in the door and I said to the clerk, 'this woman needs a vibrator!'"
"I just remember giggling," says Nancy. "I had never been in a sex shop. Julie helped remind me that I was more than just a grieving caregiver. That shopping trip wasn't so much about sex, it was about embracing life."
What Nancy's learned from Julie: "She really stays involved with the world outside of her husband and family," Nancy says. "She helped me to realize early on the importance of living a full life, staying engaged with the things you're interested in, and maintaining your identity."
What Julie's learned from Nancy: "I'm an introvert," says Julie, "and Nancy's a real connector. I have to push myself to reach out -- my tendency would be not to -- and I'm not that good at it. Nancy has really shown me how, and what connecting with friends can do in your life."
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