Death of a Friend

November 23, 2009
My friend died two weeks ago.

November 8, 2009
While I slept beside my husband, Clare was slipping away, trying to hold on, I imagine, until Charles made it to the hospital just minutes away. And on I slept as Charles traveled what he later called the longest 7 minutes of his life. And I dreamed, with my husband’s hand resting on my hip, as my friend’s life ended before Charles’ journey did…before I awoke to begin a new day with my husband.

E-mail from Clare, August 2009:
Just where does the time go? Chas and I often wonder about this…you see we firmly believe that time just does not stand still, when we start our day, we don’t rush breakfast, and of course we read the papers, and before you know it, it’s nearly coffee time, and then we just say, Oh, well, there’s another day tomorrow.

I am comforted that when I saw Clare several weeks ago for dinner that we laughed hard and she called my children wonderful British words like ‘lovely’ and ‘wicked,’ which only invited them to act all the more so to make her laugh. I am comforted that before we parted, we hugged fiercely and told each other how much our friendship meant and how much we loved each other. She said she would come stay with us next time she visited the States. We all looked forward to it instantly.

My friend Linda is getting married. My family is standing up in the wedding…3-year-old Keenan is the ring bearer and has a bow tie the size of his facetious smile. The family’s long-time friend is in from England, and as I get to know her, she is a reminder of my college trip to Great Britain and the ‘lovely’ people who helped me with directions…and riding the Tube and drinking Shandy and visiting real castles and driving from London to northern Scotland through countryside that made me feel like the reincarnation of some Celtic warrior who once wept among those hills. We promise to write.

Clare was my friend for more than 17 years. There were times we lost touch but would always reconnect. She was able to be with us for Keenan’s and Mackenzie’s graduations and my wedding in 2008. Why do such things mean so much to us? Because our friends are some small and grand part of us that we yearn for when too much time and distance separates.

November 6, 2009
I am eager to leave work early today and drive to Kentucky to see my husband for the weekend. My cell phone rings just as I am enabling the Out of Office. It is Charles. He thinks we might be wondering why we haven’t heard from Clare in the past couple weeks. In fact, I had just asked Mackenzie if she had any email from her since the thank you note she sent a few days after our dinner. Clare has been caring for Charles after his surgery but then fell sick, they think with something she caught while on the flight home. She is ‘in hospital.’ I am concerned but hopeful, especially when he says in his questioning sing-song, ‘She is brighter today and taking some biscuits??’ We talk about a lot of things, because he sounds lonely and worried.

The people we love show us the nature of God. His always goodness…
Kindness: my husband
Forgiving spirit: my son
Creativity: my daughter Mackenzie
Compassion: my daughter Megan
Nurturer of relationships: my mother
Joy: my father
Humor: my brother
Loyalty to friends: Clare

And my list is as long as the list of my friends and family. All those, who by my knowing them, add to who I am. Apart from them, anything good in me is Christ and anything evil, the absence of him in that cell or corner or thought or breath.

November 8, 2009
I am spending a quiet morning with Dan and my stepson Matthew before I head back to Chicago. MISSED CALL from Linda. My heart whispers, but I don’t listen. I decide to call her on my way home. She is calling to tell me Clare has died during the night…and so far away.

Leaving Kentucky is always hard. Saying goodbye over and over again to my own husband, then waiting the two weeks until we’re together again. I want to say, Oh well, there is another day tomorrow…but not by myself. There is a winding road I take from Dan’s house when the weather is good. Along it I see ‘lovely’ people who wave at strangers and green fields with brown horses whose backs shine orange in the sun and curves that make you gasp and hit the brakes. Today it makes me feel like I have a warrior’s heart and takes me on a corkscrew journey though high hills that make me weep.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.