I still know her telephone number by heart, even if as the years passed, we saw each other less often and spoke with much less frequency. I can still hear her voice brighten as she heard mine, and it was as if we had just spoken the day before and were picking up the conversation where we left off.

I still remember her birthday, and the many birthday lunches shared, and her anniversary, same year, just a day after mine. The cards that arrived, then emails, often decorated with whimsical musical notes.

I still bake her chocolate bundt cake for special occasions, quick and easy, rich and satisfying, the recipe in the old Brandeis cookbook smeared with dripped batter, sticky and sweet.

And I think of what it means to have a friend.

We met so many years ago at the old JCC on Maryland, she with a then almost kindergartner, me with another, the two little girls becoming fast friends, as soon did we. She was as innately nice and natural as the proverbial girl next door, the pretty college coed, the longtime college roommate.  No pretense, no artifice. Sweet as her lilting voice, and simple as the way she carried herself. No fuss, no muss.

She introduced me to two other moms, and our circle grew to become a carpool, and so much more, as our lives converged in myriad ways, and our friendship deepened with shared experiences as we raised our kids, from preschool to preteen, from high school to college. Soccer games and dance recitals, Hebrew school and model Seders, birthdays and holidays, then b’nai mitzvah, and then engagements and weddings, and another generation of little ones at the J.

So many memories that come back with such intensity now that she is gone that it seems as if it was only yesterday. But it is not.

I recall the wisdom shared by a dear friend of my mother’s decades ago. “If you are lucky,” she confided to me, then an innocent, young twenty-something mother of two babies with an aspiring lawyer husband, “you may have many acquaintances in life, but a few good friends.”

If we are blessed with long and rich lives, our social circles expand as we grow, rippling ever outward with a multiplicity of interests and intersections. School friends, shul friends, family friends, friends we make through our children, friends we make through our husbands, friends we make as community volunteers, friends we make in the work place.

Lives we come to share, people who in some way big or small we either touch or are touched by them. Often we never know or appreciate the impact, sometimes we are not old enough or wise enough to sense it.

Until it is gone.

And then we see that there are some people who come into our lives who will always be there.

The friends who are forever a presence, who forever are a part of who we are.

Forever friends, friends forever.