Remembering My Two Best Friends: Judy and Marilyn

by Susan R.

Today, I am sitting in the sunlight making a pillow out of Marilyn’s dress.  It feels peaceful, and right. I sew and remember her in it, and all the 40 odd years we were each other’s comrades.  Somehow making something that connects me to her seems right. It does not seem right that she is gone. Will it ever?

Judy, Susan and Marilyn (l-r)
Judy, Susan and Marilyn (l-r)

In moments of clarity, I can accept it, and be grateful I was blessed to have such a soul sister, I, who always longed for one, and only had a brother, who died too soon too. But, at other times my life seems so diminished without her. And Judy.

The Christi Center asked me to write about the loss of a friend, since there is less written about this particular loss. I will try. Everyone’s experience when a best friend dies is difficult, and in my case compounded with my ultimate loss, the loss of my beloved husband. Would I have grieved even more for them if I were not in the depths of grief for him?

Judy: monument of compassion and best friend for 40 years. What a woman of sterling character and wit. My husband was dying, two and a half months from dying, and I went to Marilyn’s house to visit and deliver her birthday presents. While there, my daughter called and said; “Momma…” The way she said it made me scared and she told me to give the phone to Marilyn. “Judy is dead, a heart attack, died instantly.” I literally tried to crawl under the couch, and then started clawing the couch and Marilyn’s legs. Sudden death is a whole other thing, no goodbyes, shocking to the core.  And then, at the hospital with my husband, I experienced Grace. I felt Judy all around me, saying all would be well. She was helping me still, and enabling me to put that grief on hold, so I could be wholly there for my husband.

Judy's quilt, walking on water
Judy’s quilt, walking on water
Marilyn's quilt, representing 3 children, and fishing husband
Marilyn’s quilt, representing 3 children, and fishing husband

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About eleven months after my husband died, Marilyn was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She had just retired. Not Marilyn: whimsical, creative, friend of decades, she spoke to my soul.

She beat all odds and lasted 27 months.  So, there I was soldiering up again, after my husband’s eight year battle, and wanting to do whatever would make the unthinkable bearable, and to spend as much time with Marilyn as possible. In her last months, I would sit by her bed and we would talk, and remember and laugh. We would talk about the light on the leaves of the trees outside her window; something we both had always agreed was wonderful. Often we did not talk, as she got weaker, and I would feed her chocolate, and rub her feet. She said my hands were so warm.  It was a holy time for me, and I hope it gave her a measure of comfort. I was with her and her wonderful family when she peacefully passed on.

And, so they are gone.  Their passing has left my life so much smaller. I want to think how lucky I was to have had them, but the daily absence of their inimitable presences does not always allow such wisdom. Yet, at times, gratitude does come unexpectedly and unbidden to my heart.  I am able to smile and rejoice in the lives we shared and the love that never dies.

 

About the Author

In the last 10 years, Susan lost her father, her only sibling, 2 best friends, 3 close friends, and her profoundest loss, her husband. She taught 2nd grade, worked in the UT library, had 4 children, and gardens, writes, and makes wall hangings. Those who attended The Christi Center’s Art Show in May saw examples of Susan’s art quilts, made to commemorate the lives of her loved ones.