The reason I love living in New England is the distinct difference in the seasons, at the beginning of each new season I think this is my favorite because it’s hard to choose just one. I tolerate the cold and the ice and the fifth season, mud, to enjoy the spring when trees bud and bulbs pop up out of hiding, the summer sounds of kids playing in the water and the sound of the crickets and fall, with pumpkin spice coffee and the vibrant colors of the trees.
Just as there are the physical seasons of life, there are also the emotional ones. The cycle of life is rich with many milestones along the way. Just as with the physical seasons, there are the favorite milestones that bring joy and happiness and then there are the milestones that leave in their wake grief, anger and pain.
The one milestone that leaves the most grief is the loss of a loved one. In this circle of life, it’s natural to mourn the passing of grandparents and parents, this is to be expected once we reach a certain age. It’s never easy, and without regrets for how we had to say our goodbyes. Sometimes we know it’s coming we have time to prepare, to say our goodbyes, and other times it’s a phone call in the middle of the night when you least expect it.
I was ten when my favorite grandmother dropped dead at the age of 69, she hadn’t been sick and I had been with her the week before. It was a heart attack, she went quickly they said, no pain, just gone. They said I was too young to go to the wake and funeral. It was the first time I saw my dad cry, I’ll never forget the grief and pain. Even though I was only ten when she passed, I have some very vivid memories of her teaching me to bake and she was the first person to introduce me to the game of solitaire.
In this season, surrounded by the budding trees and the daffodils and hyacinths coming up through the ground, I feel an immense grief for the loss of my best friend from childhood. Susan left this earth on March 31 at age 69, not quickly, but after almost 2 years of dealing with terminal cancer. Cancer is insidious, invasive, giving and taking hope with each treatment and new miracle drug.
I’m thankful that in the fall and winter we fell into a routine where I would visit along with a few of our close friends from middle school. Each of us brought something, I brought the bagels and cream cheese, Bev brought the brownies, half cooked and gooey, the way they should be, and Marlene would bring the heathy stuff, fruit and quiche. Susan would sneak the keys to the car and drive to pick up the most amazing gourmet muffins to complete our brunch. We knew she was having a good day when she presented the muffin box.
Susan’s love language was gift giving and even though she was very sick, she never stopped making gifts. When we visited, there would be 3 bags on the counter in the kitchen each containing a wonderful handcrafted token of love.
I’m grateful for this time we spent together as friends, talking about the old days, when we walked together the 1.75 miles each day to and from school, about our shenanigans, and how they helped mold us into the adults we are today.
I’m most grateful because we had the opportunity to have the talk, the talk that no one ever wants to have, but the talk everyone should have with their loved ones, the talk where we freely express our love for one another and acknowledge how much our friendship has meant. This is the gift I will always treasure from our friendship. And I’m grateful I was with her and her family during the last few days of her life. I know she knew I was there, sometimes she could squeeze my hand or try to smile.
At her funeral there was a very large basket of flower seeds, Susan was also a master gardener, she had the ability to transform any space into a thing of beauty. And it was fitting for her, even at the end, to make sure everyone left with a gift from her.
I will plant Susan’s seeds and she will always live on in my heart. I will feel her spirit when I see Hydrangeas in bloom, catch a whiff of her signature Shalimar or walk along the beach. Rest my dear friend, until we meet again…..