Monthly Archives: April 2014

Farewell to a Friend

A close friend died recently, apparently in her sleep, at the age of 54. She was divorced and lived alone. When her grown sons hadn’t heard from her for a few days, they went to check on her and found that she had passed away.

She and I had been great pals in college, then grew apart. Two or three years ago she reached out to me and we picked up exactly where we left off.

Her life, I learned then, had not been an easy one. She had been divorced twice. There were health and financial problems, and career disappointments.

When she learned that I had written a novel, and that it was going to be published, she went completely berserk with happiness for me. She so enjoyed being in the loop, hearing the details about publicity plans, sharing my anxiety as well as my excitement.

Then, not long after my novel was published, she suffered a serious fall. She had surgery. There were financial repercussions.

She was stuck at home, looking for something productive to do while she coped with pain and disappointment. One day she mentioned in an email that she was tempted to try writing again. She had always wanted to try her hand at fiction, going all the way back to our college days. All she needed, I thought, was a nudge.

What are friends for, if not to provide a nudge?

And so I encouraged her. I cheered her on. During the last several months of her life, she was happily immersed in writing a novel.

When I found out that she had died, in the midst of my grief, it upset me greatly that she will never get to finish her novel. It seemed so cruel.

But in the days that followed, it occurred to me that finishing her novel was perhaps beside the point. What matters most was that she felt inspired. She had taken the initiative and was in the process of pursuing a dream. She was looking to the future with a sense of hopefulness and not despair. And for this, I am very grateful.

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The Delany Sisters and “Graveyard Talk”

The Delany Sisters, my old friends, had a delightful expression when referring to an important secret. They called it “graveyard talk,” or something you might say to a gravestone when no one else is around.

I think the world we live in needs more “graveyard talk,” especially since the advent of social media. I love social media – don’t get me wrong – but there are times when I am taken aback by the subject matter some people post for the whole world to see.

I realize this makes me sound like a total prude, and I’m not. At least, I don’t think I am. But I do think some topics should be kept private between a husband and wife, a parent and child, or a person and her God.

Privacy is and was important in the home in which I was raised. My parents didn’t open our mail or listen in on our phone calls. I thought of this recently when my mother was briefly hospitalized (which, by the way, she is okay with me writing about). In the chaos of being taken to the emergency room by ambulance, her pocketbook was left at home. Later that afternoon, my mom’s condition stabilized and the first thing she asked me to do (after reminding me to make sure Dad took his meds) was to retrieve several items from her purse and bring them to her in the hospital. Nothing terribly personal – eye drops, a favorite lip moisturizer, her Medicare card – but still, I hesitated. I felt as if I were breaking into a safe. I realized that I had never, in my entire life, looked inside my mother’s purse.

When you grow up with that level of concern for the privacy of others, it’s a little jarring to see what others find acceptable to post on Facebook. The minute and icky details of a health condition? Yuck. Intimate details from the bedroom? No thanks!

I’m a little uneasy, also, about the stories some people post about their children. Should the world know about your child’s personal issues, setbacks, failures, and illnesses? I suppose some would say yes, if it helps reduce a negative stigma or if it eases someone else’s worry about their own child. On the other hand, a public declaration on the Internet is forever, and maybe your children will resent you someday for making that decision for them.

It may not be popular to say so, but some things are simply no one else’s business. Just because we now have the technology to share everything doesn’t mean we should.

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