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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

At the End of a Long Goodbye

I lost someone recently. Someone close, with whom I spent not hours or weeks or months, but years. Fifty-some. Important childhood times, equally important adult times. We didn't always agree, and in fact there were months (and years) when we didn't speak at all. We would fight about silly things, things that seem really silly now that she's gone. She was not technically a friend, she was much more than that. She was a relative, a first cousin actually, who was like a sister to me. Even, dare I say it? a soul mate. There was a connection that neither of us could ever really understand. There were times as kids when I thought she threw the moon and flung the stars. I so admired her, wanted to be like her. She was funny and fun, smart and a smart-ass. Ultimately, she was troubled, something I knew and feared. I feared it because she was so complicated.

I am not particularly complicated. Yes, I'm a smart-ass. Sarcastic. Bitchy. But not complicated. I wake up every day and am happy about it. Happy to hear the birds, to see my dog's smiling face, glad to climb out of bed and see what the day will bring. She was not. She lived a tortured life, suffered from depression even as a young girl, and was profoundly depressed in recent years for reasons I won't go into here. Quite simply, life was not a happy place for her. Even in old times she did not wake up happy. In these last years, I imagine (because I don't know for sure) she woke up crying.

In the past two weeks I've relived those old old times, the really good stuff. On her family's farm, goofing around as kids do. She was so interesting and so delightful. We climbed trees and skated on frozen ponds. We wrote a little soap opera once and taped it on an old reel-to-reel. We played with trolls and created fantastic shoe box mansions. We scaled country hills and floated shards of wood in rivers and climbed trees where we sat as little girls will (or used to) and talked and talked and talked. There were paper dolls, and kittens, and calling cows. We played table football with matchboxes. Our families spent holidays together, though we were a bit like the Peanuts kids. Adults were quite tall out-of-touch beings with faraway voices. In our world, under card tables covered with blankets to make tents, we whispered and giggled and made plans for a future that would never be.

Our paths diverged as young adults, but happily (I think it was happy for us both) the paths came back together eventually. In most recent years we spent time around a card table instead of under one. It was always so good to see her because I wondered how long we would have. She was sad, as I mentioned, and I knew the clock was ticking. She knew it too. We all did.

On June 2 the end came. I had not spoken with her since last July, another hiatus in our long and inexplicable relationship. The last time I hugged her goodbye I sensed it might be the for-real last time, but 20/20 hindsight and all that, so who knows. She left through my kitchen door and I never spoke to or saw her again, although we did email once or twice after. I'm not completely sure why our contact ended. I hear she needed some distance from me. And that's okay.

When the call came that she was gone, I was shocked but not surprised. I didn't cry. I've been waiting for that call for 30 years and I guess the tears had long ago been cried for this news. I've certainly cried since the call, but not for her. She's finally where she wants to be. I've cried for myself, that I'll never see her lively brown eyes again, that I'll never hear her voice or smell her hair in a hug. As kids I got her hand-me-downs, and there was one green satin dress in particular that I loved so much, because it smelled like my cousin Judy.

I'm trying very hard to understand that she was not happy on this earth, and what that must have been like for her. She wanted to go on to the next place, whatever that is, and now she's there. I hope she knew how much I loved her. I hope she still knows. I hope she's found whatever she was looking for, and that now, finally, she's at peace. I'm strangely happy for her, an odd thing to say because we're supposed to be unhappy when someone dies. But she was so unhappy here. Her life was in darkness. Maybe now she's found some light.

And life goes on. So while I'm still upright and breathing, I've decided to tuck her away in a little quiet spot of my heart, where the beautiful spirit I remember so well can live on forever.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum