The breakup happened on Facebook. "I just can't do this anymore," Deb Newman wrote to her best friend, Mary Kaarto, in a private message. Just like that, 17 years of friendship were over.
When Mary and Deb first met at Bible study in Katy, TX, in 1999, and became friends a year later, they were divorced single mothers looking for companionship. But for both of them, new marriages changed things. Mary became an empty nester in a town an hour away. Deb acquired two stepsons and a hectic job in her husband's real estate appraisal business.
"I missed her. But it felt final."
At the time, Mary called and Deb didn't. Mary pushed to meet up, but Deb resisted, unsure of how to prioritize her family and her friend. In September 2011, the tug-of-war ended in a mutual meltdown. Deb shut down the friendship, and in response, Mary says, "I deleted absolutely everything, including phone and email and Facebook messages. Two seconds later, I bawled my eyes out."
Deb says, "I missed her. But it felt final."
One day, Mary detoured past her old friend's house in Katy and burst into tears. "God," she prayed, "if it is Your will, please bring us back together. And if not, please take this hurt away." Deb uttered a similar prayer when business took her to Mary's town.
Then, in spring 2016, Mary, the author of a book about being laid off, emailed Deb a request to use a photo her friend had taken in a magazine article. After a few back-and-forths, Deb wrote the magic words I'll always love you.
Mary's response came the next morning: I have always and will always love you as well.
"We learned what we needed to learn, what God was trying to teach us."
From there, the emails began flying: "I would confess, then she would confess," says Mary. Each admitted to searching for information about the other online.
Having recalibrated their relationship to fit their current lives, they're now, Mary says, "thick as thieves" again: "We learned what we needed to learn, what God was trying to teach us. He brought about this awesome reunion."
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