“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness… Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise…“ Psalms 100
And so an important part of my history died this past weekend.
Her beauty will be missed. Her joyous countenance was unique in my experience. Yes, life’s sorrows were etched around her eyes among the smile lines. But her face was also molded by her attitude. In repose it held compassion, gentle curiosity, an intense need to understand, and a readiness to smile.
This lovely woman was the BFF of my youth. In her last years we were blessed with time to share the memories embedded in our hearts. Not that I would have forgotten her importance to me in high school.
Having her as a best friend helped me to gain confidence and a sense of belonging in the years when I needed that boost. We understood each others’ foibles as well as those of our respective first families. We made each other comfortable.
As debate partners we studied many hours together and sat side-by-side on the long bus trips to tournaments.She was the one who greeted me with a smile and a saved seat in Pep Club. How many of the same classes did we have? I don’t know, but we spent a lot of time together. We shopped together. Talked about everything.
She was my sidekick. We shared the same odd intensity but she was the chipper foil to my literal self. My memories of her are cloaked in an aura of fun and frivolity tempered by our family backgrounds of strict rules. .
Having seen each other infrequently throughout our lives, our stronger reconnection coincidentally came as she was becoming ill. Her husband flew her from a diagnostic doctor’s appointment to our first “buddy” reunion of eight schoolmates at the lake where she and I had camped with her family fifty years before.* It was a lighthearted time of making new memories and retelling old ones. Through the next years those of us who could met and reminisced periodically. The last time was at her house when she had made the important decision to refuse treatment other than palliative care.
Whenever she and I met or spoke on the phone in the past few months, we fell easily into talking more of our feelings about ourselves, our families, and our thoughts on life and death.
What she left with me is more important than the history that is gone.
Her example of tenacity without grasping gave me comfort for her and for myself. I witnessed her deep faith and acceptance of her fate. Our last conversations were poignant, but not sad. She knew her outcome and was doing what she felt was important in the days she had – enjoying outings with friends, treasuring the time with her family – in essence, living each day by choice.
When we talked about her leaving, she shrugged without seeming callous. She had fought the good fight. In her own unique way she had shared her life message with everyone within earshot. She loved her husband and children and felt they understood their importance in her life. She had set aside letters for her grandchildren.
My friend had a unique ability to cherish the similarities in our lives and acknowledge the differences without rancor. We could look at each other with deep recognition of the strength of our bonds and the fragility of life.’
Our history is not gone, but without her, much of it will be forgotten. Her lessons, though, will remain with me forever.
She lived – and faced her own death – with the same glad heart.
*On a camping trip with her family I embarrassed myself by panicking in the tent – waking all of her younger brothers and sisters as I scrambled around the edges, looking for a way out of my claustrophobia.