Death Comes to the Old Friend

A few days ago, someone with whom I was friends 30-something years ago when I was in college, died suddenly and unexpectedly.  We kept in touch all these years via Christmas cards and the occasional letter with a newspaper clipping about one old friend or another, and more recently via Facebook, but I am sure we hadn't seen one another in 25 years.

Still, I am sad - especially for her family and close friends.  I know they are shocked and grieving; I know they will miss her.

Her death reminds me of a couple things.

First, life is short and one never knows what's coming.  She died just like that, after a night out with her husband.  One minute she was there, and the next she was gone.

People have differing ideas about what to do because life is short.  There was a woman in our neighborhood whose motto was "Life is too short not to use the good china, silver and crystal at least once a week."  Another might say that life is too short to spend any time polishing silver.  Life is too short for some not to follow a dream that might mean taking a huge leap of faith, going on a daring adventure, going off into the wild unknown that may, to some, look foolish.   Life is too short for others not to burrow down into family and friends and home, surrounding oneself with the love that comes with close relationships, deep roots, and shared space as well as shared history.  Life is too short for some to save all one's money for a rainy day; for others, it's too short to live on the edge because the rainy day will come too soon.

What's life-giving to one may not be life-giving to another.  Our job is to figure out what is life-giving to us, now - which may be different from what was life-giving twenty-five years ago or twenty-five years from now.  Life goes through many stages and we have to be awake to them, not only to navigate them but to be awake to our yearnings and the things we want to grow into and grow out of.  We have to take the time to listen to our hearts and know when something is a risk and when it's a blessing - a gift from God made known by the promptings of the Spirit.

The other thing this death reminds me of is my friend herself and our history together.  We met when I was in college and we were both working in a state government agency (she was finished with college) - me part time and she full time.  We became good friends during that season of my life.  She took me under her wing as the new girl in the office, and we enjoyed hanging out together for things like nickel beer night at The Palace Saloon, shopping at the mall when we only had about a dollar to spend (I think I may still have the shell necklaces I bought for $1 on one of those excursions), trips to the beach - Alligator Point, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, St. George Island.  (She was a beach bum, like me.  I have in my photo album a few pictures of us as young bathing beauties.)  Staying up late talking about men while eating watermelon candy.  (More like boys, thinking back....) Spending Saturday afternoons at the pool at her apartment complex.  And laughing at her penchant for buying stuff in bulk like toilet paper and paper towels when she lived in a one-bedroom apartment by herself.  She loved my mother's spaghetti sauce recipe - one of her Christmas cards a few years ago contained a report that she still used it.  And she had a big, beautiful smile, although I know she wasn't always as happy as she looked.  I expect that's true for many of us.

There were some dark days, too; unrequited love, family hurts, a seeking for something that seemed elusive to her.  And after I moved away, I know that my friend struggled with the change from happy-go-lucky and single to married and settled, but in the end, she was able to make the transition and be happy in her chosen life.

So rest in peace, my old friend Lucy, and may light perpetual shine upon you as you rest in God's arms.  You will certainly be missed here, but I imagine your bright smile is lighting up heaven even now.


Meredith Gould said…
What wonderful memories. Bathing beauties, eh? That makes sense.
Thanks, Meredith. We lived in Florida and spent all summer at either pool or beach... many years and pounds ago.
Perpetua said…
So sorry to hear about your friend, Penny, but what lovely memories you have of her and of your friendship.

At 65 I'm now a person wh thinks life's too short not to use your good stuff to make every day beautiful.
Perpetua - yes. And it's good to know where one stands on the "life's too short" continuum.
Gerrarrdus said…
Life on earth is a very precious thing. We're only mortal once. And loved ones can disappear very quickly.
True, and thanks Gerrarrdus.