To see her

On New Year's Eve, I lost one of my oldest friends, Linda.

Many years ago, while getting her PhD., she contracted hepatitis C while working in a hospital. 

She joked about it then; a resident stared at her, and she thought, "Well, hel-lo there!", till he leaned over and said, "You're jaundiced; see a doctor immediately."  She had a brilliant liver transplant, and life went smoothly for the next thirty years.

She became a noted epidemiologist and professor whose area of research was women's health; after her retirement, she continued to serve as a volunteer in developing countries. Linda had a long, happy marriage. Having children was off limits; she poured her nurturing into her students. 

We were friends since university days; I loved the contrasts she embodied so naturally: a fresh-faced beauty who swore like a stevedore, a late-night pub crawler who made the honour roll. She was deeply kind, and she also would warn me, "I'm half Greek and half Irish, don't get me mad."

Linda lived far from me; one of our retirement projects was to see one another again, "soon".

When I did not hear from her by New Year's, I had a premonition, and googled her name to find she had died the day before. 

I wrote her husband; he replied immediately, saying he had dreaded telling me that a small problem begun by an infection had inexorably escalated through the fall. By mid-December they knew time was running out.

Near the end, he told me, they received dear friends for a special dinner, then lay in their bed, sleeping and talking, and she said, "It was heaven". She died surrounded by family and friends.

I have very few regrets, most of them trivial, but this one is not: that I delayed a trip to an inconvenient destination, that we did not 'make it happen', somewhere. 

I never dreamed time was limited, but of course it is, for all of us. Now, my only choice is to go to that distant place for a life celebration, which feels surreal and sad.

I sit here, playing the songs that sparkling girl danced to long ago, mourning her and the mistake I made.

33 comments

see you there! said...

She sounds lovely. I have a strong feeling she would understand and not want you to beat yourself up about the missed meeting. Love between you was no doubt expressed many times.

Darla

Connie said...

So sorry for your loss. A very sad lesson for all of us.

My condolences.

frugalscholar said...

We have all entered--or are about to enter--"the age of grief" (book by Jane Smiley). So difficult to deal with all the regrets...

Kristien62 said...

We all have regrets, Duchesse. My prayers and intentions are for you today.

une femme said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Duchesse.

Anonymous said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. One of my oldest friends is very ill at present. We've seen each other infrequently over the years, but your experience prompts me to make a firm arrangement to visit without delay. Thank you.
Rosie

Madame Là-bas said...

Your friendship sounds like a very loving one. I hope that you get a chance to make the trip in your friend's memory. I'm sorry for your loss.

materfamilias said...

I'm so sorry, K. I experienced a similar regret decades ago when I was shocked to hear that a once very close friend had died -- I hadn't known she'd been diagnosed with leukemia and then died in a reaction to the bone marrow transplant. Busy with young children, living two days' drive away, it had been months since we'd talked by phone. . . I'd like to say it was a lesson learned, but I think that like you, I'd probably been doing the best I could with the family and friends right around me.
May you find solace in the many wonderful memories you have of times with your dear friend. Take care.

LPC said...

I am so sorry for your loss, both of the person and the hope to see her again. I hope the service heals some of your regrets.

LauraH said...

Your friend sounds like an amazing person and the connection between you very warm and strong. I hope the memorial helps you come to terms with the regret you feel.

Susan said...

I have made last minute sprints to death beds to see a dear friend at the very end, only to question why I did not make the effort to see her more when she was well. I know the answer. Life happens. We have family obligations, work to accomplish, sometimes limited funds for travel. The love is there, but sometimes not that awareness that things can change in an instant.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Sending condolences your way today....I hope you find comfort in the memory of your dear friend.

Jean S said...

This is a hard one; I'm so sorry.

Something similar happened to my husband in 2013 when an old pal died. He simply said, "I always thought I'd see him again."

Anonymous said...

Oh, how sad. Lovely tribute to your friend. I'm very sorry for your loss, but please do not berate yourself. We always think we'll see whomever again, and time just slips away so quickly.

-Dee

Ripple Dandelion said...

It's just not possible to live each day as if it might be the last, and to act within each relationship as if we might never meet again. Think of how much pressure that would put on the present! I'm sure nothing can ease your regret, but I truly believe that simply living life fully and consciously, without trying to tie up every loose end all the time, was a wonderful way to honor your friend and your friendship.

VC said...

It is a beautiful memorial for your friend. My condolences,
VC

Duchesse said...

All: Your thoughts and wishes mean a great deal to me, and comfort me. If there is someone you want to see, I hope you act, and avoid the mistake I made of letting "life happen" and being too laissez-faire.

Eleanorjane said...

Your friend sounds like an amazing person who made a huge positive contribution to the world. I'm sorry she's gone and that you had to find out like that.

Tiffany said...

Oh, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for reminding us that there isn't always a 'later', especially for important things like dear friends. But as others have said, be kind to yourself too ...

NCBP said...

I still regret not having visited a former High School classmate who losing her battle with brain cancer. Although we hadn't been close when we were young, we had begun to strike up a friendship when we found that we had moved to another state and lived only miles from each other. I kept putting off the visit, and was devastated when I learned of her death. This is a wonderful tribute to your friend, and an important reminder that sometimes there isn't a "do over".

Anonymous said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. "It was heaven" has me in tears. It sounds like she had a wonderful and fulfilling life. Last July I lost a friend who we thought was clear of her second bout of breast cancer only to find that it had spread to the pancreas. She left her mother, husband, and 12 yr. old daughter. I cannot express how painful it is to pass by her home each day as she was also my neighbor. It is almost unbearable when I see her daughter.

lagatta à montréal said...

I'm very sorry about the loss of your lovely friend.

You made no mistake. Nowadays, we live far-flung lives. You had no way of knowing that your friend had taken a turn for the worse; lots of people live with some kind of sword over their head, some for longer than people who've never had serious health issues.

SewingLibrarian said...

I'm sending sympathy and good wishes your way. Every once in a while life pulls us up short and reminds us of what is important. Sometimes it's a big event like 9/11/2001. Sometimes it's the unexpected death of someone like your friend.

Anonymous said...

Such a painful story, Duchesse. I'm very sorry you missed seeing your friend before her death. I hope that she will appear in your dreams; that can be a surprisingly comforting thing.

C.

Murphy said...

I am so sorry for your loss!

Unknown said...

We never know if we'll have a chance to say goodbye, I'm sure your friend knew that she was loved, and in the end, that's the best that we can do for those we care for...whether we can say it in person, or in prayer. I am very sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

I too am sorry for your loss. Having your closest friend pass is always a challenge. My deepest sympathy.
Karen

Anonymous said...

Dear Duchesse

Thank you for telling us about your friend. Play some music, drink something good, think about her and feel happy that you were such good friends. I bet she appreciated your friendship as much as you did hers...

There are no easy answers (I am in my 60s and have seen dear friends die) all I think is this: tell your loved ones how much you value them while they are alive and it is clear you did this.

Warmest good wishes

Sue

Anonymous said...

A regret can be transformed from something painful and burdensome to something positive and life enhancing, if one heeds the lessons held within it. I deeply regret not visiting a dear friend, who was ailing in a nursing him in her late 80s, when I was in my mid 20s. I thought I had time, literally thought 'I'll go next week'. But she had passed by that following week. Being at her funeral wasn't pointless, far from it, but I wish I'd told her one more time in person how much I loved her and valued her wisdom and inspirational spirit.
So, when a decade later I learnt that a friend much closer to me in age had received a terminal prognosis, I moved immediately. I dropped everything, my husband took two days off work to look after our children, I travelled the length of the UK via 4 trains and a taxi ride. It was worth it. Still is, ten years on from her death.

Since then I have dropped everything on other occasions, often much happier ones, determined to make a friend's wedding, their child's bat mitzvah, an important wedding anniversary celebration, whatever key thing I am honoured to be invited to. These are the ties that bind in good ways. They are worth me making space for them. I sometimes need to remind myself of that fact, so submerged am I in daily busy-ness.

Hence, the initial hard learnt lesson has transformed into a fundamentally changed perspective which has enriched my life no end. So, yes, mourn your friend, but also as a memorial to her, don't get stuck in the regret (which I presume she would not wish you to feel) but use it proactively to propel yourself to connect with others at key points in the future.
My condolences to you. Your friend had a beautiful face, such a wonderful smile.
Alexandra

rubiatonta said...

Duchesse, I share your sorrow at your friend's loss. At the same time, I am deeply grateful that you chose to share with us so that we might learn. As it happens I am seeing two dear friends tonight -- we have been close since we were young things here in Madrid and it has been a long time since we've gotten together. One of them has Parkinson's, and I am setting an intention right now not to let time slip by without seeing her as often as I can.
Sending you much love, R.

Stacy said...

Thanks to this post, I called an old dear friend of mine and had a lovely chin wag with her.

You gave your friend a great tribute by writing this post and reminding us to slow down and show our love.

Duchesse said...

C.: it has happened to me- friends or family long gone appear in dreams; I always feel privileged and wish I could summon them at will.

Alexandra: Yes, it has firmed my resolve to be more present and respond to such opportunities.

Beth said...

Duchesse, I'm sorry that I missed this post when you wrote it. I'm very sorry for your loss, and for your regrets. As Alexandra said, this experience can be a transformative one not just for you but for all of us who've read your account. I had a strange feeling earlier this year and called my former piano teacher; as soon as her husband answered I knew my premonition had been right. How I wished I had called earlier -- but I hadn't, and there's no way to erase that fact, only to honor her memory in my own life.