I lost my friend the other day. She was eclectic, different, but insanely honest. Her life story at times made me blush, at times laugh, and at times cry. While beneath the stories I would hear a soul yearning to be heard or understood. I knew her for over 25 years but only knew her the last few. I grew to knew her well as we sat and discussed the ramblings of age and the lack of reason in a world that her life and mine knew only too well. Time robbed us of our chance to change all of that because we were dreamers, not performers. We dreamt about history, society, love, and peace. We asked each other question even though we thought we knew the answers. We learned from each other, and it was a privilege to sit and just talk about anything knowing the other would understand and not criticize.
I never realized how important those conversations were. They built a strong understanding of how one soul could relate to another in ways very few contemplate or ever think possible. She left just as we were going to make a breakthrough not to each other (we had already done that) but to generations to come. Can you imagine keeping notes on your life for over 90 years? What would those records contain? Would you dare write down the sorrows of your life or the joys that seeing water drip down a window pane can give? What would you enter into the diary of your everyday?
She did just that. Imagine years of forgotten memories jammed into boxes, notebooks, and pieces of paper. Would you talk about your dysfunctional family, the abuses of love or the joys in memories of your father? Oh, yes her father. She would talk for hours of the love she had for his saying this or that and daring to challenge her mother’s love. Yes, she was different but different in ways only a few ever knew. Why? She learned to hold close all the good and bad times and only on a few occasions trusted others to hear her stories.
I can remember times when she would tell me stories that brought tears of laughter to my face and other stories when I felt I was talking to Mother Theresa. All within the span of a few moments in time She wasn’t afraid to question those things others took for granted including me who took for granted this thing called time. I knew time was shortening for her and that time was the robber of dreams. My dreams were her dreams and visa verse. I thought we had more time while that angel of death circled her head. She knew more than I about the shortness of time and how time could teach lessons or ruin someone’s chance at fame.
My friend was a simple person who lived a very spartan life towards the end. She was the grandmother who cared about her grandsons while helping them overcome devastating illness. She cried for them,prayed for them and dreamed of their having a better life. She cherished her daughter, son, family. I know, because she told me about them every time we met.
Then, there were stories she told me that just about took my breath away. She knew she could tell me because she knew I accepted and loved her as my adopted grandmother, friend, confidant. My friend was so honest I never knew what she would say about any topic although I knew succinctly about which politician she admired and which she despised.
My friend wasn’t perfect; she admitted her failures in a transparent way. From the day we met at a friend’s house so many years ago to the day she died and left me without another story or another moment of her time, she never strayed from her inner compass. She was who she was and was not ashamed of the lessons from her past.
How many of us could emulate her courage, her innocence, her incredible sense of humor over some things that would break us apart? As she grew older and frailer, she knew she had a story to tell. A story is stolen by time, place or circumstance. At one time or another time robs all of us our stories, our past and especially our future.
This same scenario played before several times in my life. It has happened enough times to make me wonder, why me? I have no answer for that question except this one thought. Each time I see the same scenario play out in my life, I now realize how privileged it is for someone to entrust me with their story, How blessed I am to be able to write about things that matter and about how each time my life became enhanced. I also know how much I learned and how fortunate I was to live in another’s shoes.
When I think about how her stories enriched my life but failed to finish this or that project we began, I realize how much she left behind for me to cherish, remember, and pass on. If you are fortunate enough to meet someone much older than you, wiser than you, more experienced than you, take a moment and say a silent prayer of thanks. Be thankful, joyful, and appreciative of all you are given. Time will erase that friend as it will you, yes even you, from the chronicles of the time you lived. But, it is the love you gave, the ideas you taught, or the words you might hear or give to others that will last forever through the generations to come.
Yes, I lost a friend the other day but, I gained so much by taking that chance to get to know her story. Take the opportunity to listen carefully to those you befriend, tell them how much they mean to your life. Do this so that when time takes them from you, you will feel comforted by having known them, given them love, and nourished your life from the dreams that remain.
Thank you, my friend, for allowing me to hear your story and may God hold you in His arms and say, well done. I will miss our times together but will always remember your smile and of course, Henry.
In Memory of my good friend, Barbara Stetson