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Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Friend Diana

We are never ready to lose dear friends, but ready or not, we have to deal with it. One summer within the space of a month, I lost two close friends and the father of another dear friend. It must have seemed to my husband that I was forever opening my email and bursting into tears. Then things calmed down for a while, long enough to lull me into a false sense of security that the rest of my friends were safe, and so was I.

But I’m on the shady side of 65 heading on down that slippery slope to 70. And at this point, losing people starts to pick up. So this is a good time to give some thought to how I handle these occurrences, these holes left in my heart. I still have both my parents. At 88 and 90, they feel like they are slipping from my grasp. They will leave a huge hole in my heart as I become an orphan. I can’t even think about losing my darling husband, my adorable sisters or my precious kids.

Still, here I sit with the very raw loss of my best writing friend Diana, taken so quickly by an obscure but fast-moving cancer. She left two barely grown children, a mother, and a devoted husband, all of whom are still reeling at what happened and where they go from here. So, too, all her writing friends. Diana was bigger than life and a constant force for urging us to be better than we ever thought we could: better writers, better citizens, better protectors of nature, just better.

As Diana’s husband and kids have circled the wagons around their loss, Diana’s other friends have united to support her mother and each other as we deal with having to push ourselves to excel without Di here to do it. She leaves a large hole, yes, but more importantly, she leaves a legacy of her example of how to lead, embrace, and chronicle life. We are all the better for it and for the privilege of having held her hand as we discovered life from her perspective. Having had that teacher and treasure, we can share her lessons with those who remain in our lives. Thank you, Diana. We miss you, and we’ll take it from here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Keeping the Knowledge Alive

I recently came back from visiting my parents: dad age 90 and Mom, 88. My dad does a lot of writing, but my mom with her macular degeneration and a prior stroke is almost blind. She feels she has nothing to live for because she can’t do anything she used to do. She needed something to feel good about, so I started a memoir for her. The only rule was that we had to focus on stories of her life that were not part of her intense anger at her family.

She started talking about life on the farm growing up. These stories will be of interest to my granddaughters now, and certainly later when my parents are gone. My parents did a book for their daughters about their lives that my mom typed and made bound copies for their four daughters in 1993, but many of the stories Mom came up with over the last week weren’t in there, so my project is to take what she did then and add these great remembrances.

On an earlier visit, I took her letters she had written her best friend years ago, especially when we were living in Mexico. Her friend was moving into assisted living and her daughter, my oldest friend, asked me if I would like these letters. Of course I would! As I read them to Mom, I learned so much about what my mom grappled with living in a foreign country and raising three daughters, running a home and keeping everything going while my father traveled extensively. My memories are from my teenage years, a much different perspective than my mom’s.

With the world changing so fast, the environment and tools we grew up with will be alien to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so we could keep the knowledge and appreciation of earlier times going by writing this stuff down, about our parents, and about ourselves, since we aren’t exactly spring chickens.

It’s also a great way to have a meaningful conversation with older loved ones, even siblings. It celebrates and validates their lives. We all want that.