Goodbye To An Old Friend

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We are away from home when I get the news.

We have been friends for forty five years, and now in a blur of words on my computer screen, I learn that she has gone. I will never hear her voice again on the phone, never hug her or see her smile. All that, gone.

There are words for the survivors of a death in the family, words that carry the weight of bereavement and loss. For a friend, loved and mourned and missed, there is no formal word to recognize these emotions.

I think about this while I stare at the computer screen. I’m notorious for never having my cell handy or even on, so my friends—all from the same Book Club that has been a strong bond for all those forty years and more—have tracked me down this way. They grieve, too, but they are together up North and have each other, while I am here with my memories.

We were young when we met, strangers, mothers of small children. We were searching for ways to connect to other women through a love of books. Our Book Ckub became a tight knit group, a supportive and caring sisterhood, and friendships grew and flourished.

Forty plus years hold many memories. In the kaleidoscope of hindsight, scenes shift and blur in my mind. I watch babes in arms and see them grew.  I watch again as our group experiences widowhood and marriage and death—laughter and tears that coalesce into a deeper appreciation of each other. Then the memories narrow to us two, my Friend and I with our youngsters at the lake, talking and laughing with the golden sun bright around us.

We watched each other’s children; we met and liked each other’s mothers; we commiserated with problems and laughed at the absurdities of adolescent teens. And we applauded those teens going away to college and beginning their careers.

In forty five years the world has changed and changed again, and we perforce have changed with it. My Friend did not have an easy life, and the hand dealt to her was challenging. In tandem with other problems, ill health dogged her but she faced  that down. In fact, she overcame everything with determination and raw courage. She had a valiant heart and never acknowledged the word ‘defeat.’ And she never lost her smile.

My Friend—how I miss her, writing this.

In due course, our lives shifted. Mike and I moved to North Carolina while she and the rest of my (still ongoing, still much loved) Book Club remained in Massachusetts. Even so, we remained close. We visited. We talked. We laughed. She rejoiced with me  when my boys were married, and she and her husband flew down south for one day to celebrate our golden wedding anniversary with us. And oh, when her son and daughter took their separate marriage vows,  such high jinks! I can still see my sisters of Book Club, holding hands and singing together, all of us happy and full the exuberance of being alive.

Then came grandchildren. My Friend was the quintessential grandmother, basking in those bright new lives as though they were her sun, moon and stars. But, always physically  frail, she grew more fragile still. The last time I saw her was when Mike and I traveled up North this September. She was so thin, but when she smiled, she was radiant. And  as we hugged each other she whispered, “It’s good to have you back again.”

Neither of us were in that moment the young, energetic strangers who had met almost half a century ago, for we had  both been tested and honed and shaped by the passing years. We were both much older, and our youthful dreams had been altered by life and circumstance. But I believe that what was most important was not what we were but what we had become;  two dear friends bound together by memories and realities and an abiding affection.

No blood tie links us together, so there is no formal word for the sorrow I feel. No, no blood line binds us as I say goodbye to you, my Friend—only the lines that lead to the heart.

Homecoming

Homecoming

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About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: http://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

14 responses »

  1. Oh Maureen, what a wonderful description and really an ode to the friendship you had with our departed friend and also a tribute to the rest of our longstanding beloved book group. While her physical self can no longer be with us, her essence remains always. Thank you so much for saying it so well. As only children, you and I, our special friendships mean to us as much as blood relationships do to others. This is the time to remember the beautiful soul or “neshuma” of our dear friend.

  2. Maureen,
    What a touching expression of your love. Yours was a special relationship and a blessed friendship. I send great sympathy for your loss. I hope that you will create a painting, art quiltm or perhaps plant something in your garden in your friend’s memory. Thinking of you!

    • Thank you, Lisa, for your heartfelt words. As we both know, it is so hard to lose a friend. Perhaps we only lose their corporeal being; we have their memories; still, it’s dreadfully hard.
      Thinking of you….

  3. What a beautiful friendship and what a difficult loss, Maureen. Thank you for sharing this moving tribute to her with all of use. Thinking of you and all her family and friends. She clearly had a positive impact on many lives.

  4. Dearest Maureen, the tributes and thoughts of your friends speak so knowingly of the way you have expressed your love and memories of your friend. I share their thoughts of your tribute to her… It is a gift to have such a long and beautiful friendship. Your memories will be a celebration to that magical life long experience.
    i love the friendship that we have too, here in Raleigh.. we are both so busy with life and family yet we take the time to nurture our friendship and i am enriched by that caring that you give to me whenever we are together or in need of special soul warming conversations and visits.
    Bless you in your remembrances of your lost loving friendship, may all the best ones light your life infinitely.

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