My Dear Friend: Love You Lots

My dear friend Margaret died exactly four months after I left her home in Prescott on Christmas Eve. 23 April 2015. I spoke with her on the phone several times during those weeks (she always ended with “Love you lots!”). And with John. And Marina. I’d spoken with John while I was in Arizona and let him know I would not be able to get back again, given what was already on my plate in terms of commitments and finances.

This was heartbreaking for me.

My parents died a long time ago. Twemty-eight years, in my mother’s case. I was so much younger then. And in this country I think we spend a lot of time trying to not think about death. Though when you get to be my age you think about it a little more. 🙂

I don’t want to be maudlin, but as I’ve declared this blog to be about having a “good” life (which is different for everyone, I think, though perhaps not as different as I imagine), I feel I should make one observation about an occasion such as this.

When someone you love is at the end of his or her life, there is very little you can do. The process cannot be stopped. And it is not a pretty process. It’s hard. There’s a lot of discomfort. But there are two things you can do: you can speak soft words of kindness and love, and you can touch your loved one with gentleness. Hold her hand. Blot her tears. Put a cool, damp cloth on her forehead, if that’s what’s called for.

That’s it: kind words and a gentle touch. Remember that.

I met Margie Raymer on my first day of high school; we shared a class, and ultimately a friendship that spanned decades and included our husbands and children. (You’ll recall Margaret traveled with me for a month in Ireland in September 2012.) I loved and admired many things about my friend, but chief among them were her kindness, her refusal to judge others, her generosity, her forward thinking, and her complete authenticity. Margaret left us after a two-year journey with a rare and aggressive cancer. During this time she was unfailingly upbeat and hopeful; she never complained. She and I talked some about death, which her strong faith taught her was simply a door through which she would pass to the next world. I grieve her passing. Good-bye, dear one—I’ll see you on the other side. Love you lots.

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She’ll Be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain …

Monday, 22 December 2014 / Day 5
I have a dear friend, Margaret, who lives in Prescott—about 90 miles from Phoenix. We met in high school, and just never let go of each other. Our fathers were both pilots in the United States Air Force, and when hers retired, he moved his family back to historic Prescott, Arizona, where Margaret finished high school, married John, raised her children (Jesse and Marina), and became an antiques dealer. She is now a grandmother and retired.

You’ll recall that Margaret traveled to Ireland with me in 2012. She and John have visited Gerry and I in Tennessee. We are close. And a big reason I’m in Arizona this Christmas is to visit Margaret, who has been suffering from cancer since last year.

So I consolidated to one suitcase, and drove up (elevation is 5300 feet above sea level) to Prescott. It’s a spectacular drive, scenery-wise. And Margaret and I spent the afternoon in her spacious living room, drinking tea and chatting … the way two old friends do. 🙂

Look at that guestroom! Very Western, and so cozy!

Look at that guestroom! Very Western, and so cozy!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014 / Day 6
We had a leisurely morning, and just took it easy. We puttered around Prescott—

—but mostly conserved our energy for later: Margaret had planned a big holiday meal in my honor. In addition to the three of us, John and Margaret’s son Jesse, and his wife and son (Melissa and Tristan) were there, as well as John’s sister Tammy. Jesse roasted the lamb, and it was fabulous. A good time was had by all.

Margaret sets a beautiful table.

Margaret sets a beautiful table.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014, Christmas Eve / Day 7
Before I left Prescott, John, Margaret, and I had breakfast at a Prescott institution: the Lone Spur Café. Huge breakfasts served up fast and hot—and it was like everyone in town was there.

John and Margaret. They’re still sweet on each other. :)

John and Margaret. They’re still sweet on each other. 🙂

But I had a Christmas service to get to—my Jesse’s Phoenix Chamber Brass would be playing—and just the right amount of time to get there. Once again I was treated to gorgeous vistas as I traveled into the valley.

Traveling down the mountain: the scenery was spectacular.

Traveling down the mountain: the scenery was spectacular.

Drove straight to American Lutheran Church, caught the end of the first service, had a little snack at the between-services “reception” for the musicians and staff, and then sat through the second service. Love singing Christmas hymns!

Phoenix Chamber Brass: Greg Lloyd, Rose French, Donald Smith, Jesse Chavez, Matt Lennex.

Phoenix Chamber Brass: Greg Lloyd, Rose French, Donald Smith, Jesse Chavez, Matt Lennex.

Jesse and I were ravenous by this time, so we went to Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails in downtown Phoenix for a late supper. And then I was done in. Long day!