“Friendship begun in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off.” Saint Francis de Sales
This week, I lost my colleague and good friend. For years, her office was next door to mine, so close I could hear her laughter and her sighs as she graded papers. We’d call out to one another without ever rising from our seats. We shared those highs and lows good friends reveal to one another. We mourned the closing of our beloved college. We attended our families’ baby showers, weddings, and funerals. And now, tomorrow–far too soon– I’m attending hers.
Ten months ago, she was suddenly and dramatically felled by a vicious, incurable brain tumor:
One moment she was laughing on the beach with her family; the next day she was stricken.
Bravely, she faced the ups and downs of treatment, the loss of one ability after another. It all seems so unfair. She was always gentle and kind, talented and good. A gifted poet, she even had to surrender her ability to speak, though I remember just a few weeks before her death when suddenly at the end of a visit as I told her I loved her, she said, “I love you too.”
Perhaps because words failed her toward the end, my way of coping with the loss of my friend has been to pay tribute to her in my own very inadequate way, and so I offer these words for you, Ann, my friend, with love.
Summer roared in on race cars,
Indy engines’ deafening crescendo screamed, “Final laps!”
But twelve characters stopped those powerful beasts,
David to their Goliath,
Hushed their thrust, as if frozen on the track.
Just twelve characters, a short text,
My phone’s pleasant trill
Belied its painful truth.
Stark words, stabbed my eyes, my heart:
“She died @ 1:45.”
I escape to the refuge of the deck,
Melt into my chair,
Those words echoing in my eyes.
I sit suspended,
Processing the reality I’d been expecting.
Below, your river playground overflows with life:
Boats spilling revelers’ laughter,
Kids’ squeals bouncing from inflated tubes.
But my heart overflows with your death.
Pure face paving a path across black water.
If I could have walked that silver sidewalk to your side,
To squeeze your hand one last time,
I would have risen from my couch
To bid you farewell and safe journey.
The ivory face, perfect and round, spoke your peaceful
Dawn eases open the door of a new day:
Purple finch whistles hell-o.
Hummingbird hovers, sips nectar, tiny wings awhir.
Catfish plop, liquid spirals vibrating to infinity.
But a mourning dove knows the truth:
You are gone . . .
High in the sky
one Great Blue Heron wings south,
Mid-river their paths cross.
Their lives intertwine,
Briefly . . .
Your flight ended too soon.
Soar on, my friend.
Life still teems
Across that Great Divide.