Saturday, December 04, 2021

My Friend Has Gone

Last night I received word that my old friend, someone I've known and loved for decades, passed away.

My regular readers may be surprised by this relationship, for I seldom wrote about it. My friend, whom I called "B." generally if I did happen to mention her, was the most private person I ever met, and out of respect for her, I did not write about our friendship often.

I may have occasionally mentioned lunch, but I never wrote about our relationship. 

But now my friend B. has moved on and she knows what lies beyond. She has answered the unanswerable question, one we discussed in detail many, many times.

She had been ill for a long time. I remember her anger when she told me she'd been diagnosed with a terminal illness, though she had some time (5 years) until death. Her anger was palatable over the telephone, like a demon racing through the wires to end at my heart. She seldom was angry with me, and I knew she wasn't angry with me then. She was angry at the situation, and at the world. I was simply a part of it. She was about the age I am now when she learned of her diagnosis, that she had the same disease that had killed her mother, her aunts, an uncle. I know she wondered if she'd passed it on to her child.

She had a wickedly delightful sense of humor. Few people get my sarcastic and sardonic wit (and those who do are friends for life), but she caught every nuance in the silly and inane things I'd say during our long lunches together. I always made her laugh. She made me laugh, too.

For years, we had lunch once or twice a week. I was working for the paper, she worked for an accountant. We both loved books, but she preferred mysteries to fantasy - she never read a fantasy, I suppose - although to me mysteries are fantasies and I enjoy them as well. We both cheered on Stephanie Plum in her adventures, wishing she'd settle on the very romantic Ranger over the more boyish guy-next-door Morelli. She stayed ahead of me in the series, usually, because the books would come out while I was in the midst of some 1200-page fantasy, and she devoured the stories of Stephanie Plum as soon as the library made them available. I introduced her to Stuart Woods and his stories of Stone Barrington and Hollie Barker, and she soon read all of those. She also liked Kinsey Milhone in Sue Grafton's books, though not as well as Janet Evanovich's books. She read other mystery series that I did not (especially ones with recipes).

For a short time, we both tried to read Elizabeth Peters books and neither of us cared for them. It became a running joke for a bit - if there was something we didn't like, we compared it to an Elizabeth Peters book. For us, that meant it was really bad.

We met over 30 years ago. We both worked part-time at the Botetourt County History Museum as it was trying to rebuild itself. I only worked on weekends. We were cataloging items, and we were doing it by hand. I wanted to do it on a computer and so did B., but the person in charge at the time was a bit behind the times. Finally, I confronted said person, and I lost the job in the process. B., who was about as nonconfrontational as my husband, continued doing as she was told.

Then we served together on the Board of Historic Fincastle, Inc. (HFI), working to help preserve and protect the tiny town of Fincastle and its historic properties. The town is like a miniature Williamsburg, really, with great potential as yet still unrealized. I served as president of HFI and B. followed immediately after me.

And then our mothers died the same year. B.'s passed in April from the same disease that she would ultimately have, and my mother died of cancer in August. The loss of our mothers that same year created a firm and yet seldom discussed bond. Motherless daughters, but not alone in our loss because we had one another. The following year, for my birthday, B. gave me a rose bush to plant. It bloomed orange, the color my mother said she'd "send" to me from beyond, to prove there was a beyond.

I did not consider it a coincidence.

For some time - a decade, at least - we were the best of friends, yet most people did not know it. We didn't keep it a secret, we just ran in different circles that seldom overlapped.

As friendships do, ours waned off and on, though we were always in touch. She and her husband built a new home, and she became preoccupied with that endeavor. They loved to travel and so she was away a lot, either exploring the United States - she visited every single state, I think, and the "four corners" of the country - or off on craft shows with her artistic husband. 

After I became disabled and less able to move about (and more reclusive as a result), she continued on with her life while I tried to rebuild mine. She was supportive when I whined, but after her diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis, I whined less. A lifetime of chronic pain versus a shortened life span? What kind of comparison can one make of that, after all?

We still had lunch occasionally, but with her travels and my health, not often. But it didn't matter how frequently we saw one another, because we had one of those relationships that began again as soon as we were back together. And we emailed. We emailed right up until last month, when she said she needed to switch to text because she could only manage short comments. And then we texted. The last thing I sent her were pictures from out my front door of a beautiful blue sky, one of the clearest days we'd had in a long time. I told her I wanted to share the view with her.

She never responded back, though the text is marked, Read.

I will miss her.

6 comments:

  1. Oh, my friend, I'm so sorry for your loss. What a lovely post about your friendship. It made me smile.

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  2. So sorry for the loss of your friend. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  3. I'm sorry for your loss, it is hard to lose a close friend. It leaves an emptiness that never gets filled. {{{HUGS}}}

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  4. Your mentioning your friend's inherited illness made me think of Woody Guthrie, who died of Huntington's Disease. I've often wondered if Arlo, his son, will die from it too. You have my sympathy for the loss of your good friend. All the very best friends I've had are gone now; I think about them often.

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  5. I am so very sorry for your loss. What a lovely tribute you'fe written.

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  6. I'm so sorry, This is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend. Oh, there is definitively a Heaven.

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