You came into my life as a sixth grader and I, a high school senior. Your class had to write individual members of my class and we read them during our senior retreat. You wrote the sweetest letter. I wrote you back, and we soon became pen pals.

Our letters and stationery were decorated with rainbows and hearts and filled with life’s little details: schoolwork, siblings, snow. I don’t recall our first meeting, but it was probably the summer I graduated. I remember driving to your house in the woods. This city girl loved your log cabin home tucked away from the busy streets. I met your parents and siblings – some, if not all – and could sense the quiet and organized calm of the household.

I brought you to my house at some point and I remember a trip to the beach. You were very quiet, probably just like me as a child. We both loved the “Little House on the Prairie” books. I can understand why since your house was like the “Little House in the Big Woods” to me!

I went away to college and we continued to write. I saved those letters. I saved all the letters everyone wrote to me. They were treasures and pieces of home and people that I missed. Your parents made a trip to campus and stopped to visit me. We arranged for you to come for “Little Sibs Weekend” a year or two later. I remember we ran a race around the lakes and I’m sure I didn’t help our team.

I graduated and began working. You went to college. Our letters may have tapered off. We reconnected later via your popular blog, “Memories on Clover Lane.” I admired your beautiful writing. You had a true gift. Your love of your family was evident. And your home and organization was lovely.

I was amazed that you had such a following. You were an inspiration to many. Your desire for a quiet, simple life was constant. It was not always attainable, but it was the goal. You raised six amazing kids whom I’ve never met, but feel like I know.

Since then, we had only seen each other in person three times. We rarely talked on the phone, but we texted. In fact, you were part of the inspiration in my recent post about letter writing and phone calls. We talked about family issues, kid problems, how to keep the holidays simple, etc. I treasured your advice. You were such a wise soul. I learned more from you, yet I was supposed to be the one who is older and wiser.

For your fortieth birthday I sent you the stack of letters you had written to me. You read them and recalled that you were really obsessed with my hair! Ha!

Then came challenging blows. Triple negative cancer, your daughter’s cancer, marriage struggles. And the return of your cancer – metastatic. These were tough times for you. This past year you were in so much pain yet you rarely complained to me. You once told me that you liked texting me because we could talk about regular things – mostly our kids – and not the cancer. So I didn’t ask about it unless you brought it up.

Since last fall, I had tried to arrange a visit. But there were holidays and family members visiting. And then lots of planning for a grandchild and wedding! I sensed you didn’t know if you would see those special events. I prayed for you. I sent a letter just a month or so ago. To tell you that I love you – loved you since I met you as a little girl.

You were in so much pain. I asked if you could write about your experiences but you didn’t want to expose yourself. I suppose cancer came to define you. You just wanted to be yourself. Your old self.

We talked about my granddaughter and I couldn’t wait for you to hold a baby in your arms again. It’s such an amazing gift to become a grandparent. You said that “Cecilia has that look in her eyes of being really smart inside – like a grown up being trapped in a baby’s body. She sees and she knows it all already.” And when you saw this photo that included my senior picture – you said that you adored my high school photo and that you wanted to be me! (Probably because of my hair!) But I wanted to be you: calm, strong, beautiful, loving, organized….

This year you were traveling to Florida for treatments and we thought maybe we could see each other in March. And last week I texted you….and you didn’t respond. I let a few days pass and then worried. I searched for your sister and found her post – and your obituary. And then I received a text from your phone, written by your brother, who apologized for having to inform me in that way. Sadly, not knowing, I missed the funeral. Your brother said it was a beautiful service and there were over 600 people there. That’s a testament to the power of your love and the many lives you impacted.

I felt sad that I didn’t get to say goodbye. But, perhaps, that’s what you wanted. I sent a letter to your parents and your mom responded with a lovely letter and said that you were valiant, but it was good to know you are now free of pain. I hope you are in heaven holding the beautiful souls that you lost, and that your body is feeling the warmth of light and love.

Goodbye, my sweet friend. Thank you for the gift of your friendship, the gift of your love. I will miss you.

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