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.