Sunday, March 28, 2010

In Which I Say Goodbye To A Friend

On Saturday morning I received the very unhappy news that a friend of mine - a beloved wife and mother of three - had died very unexpectedly. I thought it must be some kind of sick joke that someone was pulling because there was simply no possible way Heather could be gone. It was incomprehensible to me that the brilliant, funny, kind, gentle person I respected so highly could wink out of existence without warning. She'd been there for me on the days when I believed I had to abandon my children and flee to Istanbul to stay sane and on the days when I was in love with the world and needed to share it. She was so delighted with the lot life had handed her that I wanted to take notes so I could be more like her.

Other than her dazzlingly dry wit and storytelling skill, one of the best things about Heather was her wisdom. She was so refreshingly honest about herself and her shortcomings, but never gave herself enough credit for what a knack she had for presenting advice in a simple, non-condescending way.

Since before my husband and I got married, there have been Ongoing Issues with his family, and I haven't been to a family holiday in almost 6 years. I was planning to skip Passover this year too, but I've been thinking a lot about something Heather wrote about marriage once:

A marriage that demands nothing from you is not a marriage, it's somebody indulging you. Love will get you through anything, but love doesn't mean "feeling affectionate." Love is giving of yourself when you don't feel like it, and I guarantee you that sooner or later, you're not going to feel like it. At that point, you will have to make an effort to swallow your pride, gain self-control, and behave completely unselfishly. Unless you've gained the status of saint, it's going to be hard. This is true of everybody, not just you.
I started thinking about what I have been teaching my children by not going. About what I have been telling my husband about my ability to put his needs before my own when I really, really don't want to. Heather gave me so much over the years I was graced with her acquaintance, and the best thing I can think to do to honor that is try to make choices that I wouldn't be ashamed to confess to her. I admired her so deeply.

So I'm going to dinner.

I was stricken with grief for her family and I was - I am - so angry about it. She was a wonderful friend, a wonderful wife, and a wonderful mother. She loved her family fiercely but never cheapened that love by idealizing anyone, or putting them on a pedestal. And despite my gimlet eye towards religion, Heather's brand of Catholicism always sounded so reasonable to me. I envied her faith because rather than seeming like blind obedience, her devotion to her beliefs came across as the natural conclusion to a well thought out course of questioning. I don't believe in Heather's god but I truly, truly hope that I am wrong and that He exists and has welcomed her warmly home.


  1. And here come the tears again. I can't think of a more fitting personal tribute you could do for Heather. She'd be proud, and probably say something witty, thoughtful, loving and awesomely catty all at once.

  2. Beautiful. No one could ask for a greater legacy than to simply, quietly, change a friend's life for the better.

    She will be missed by so very many.

  3. Lovely. What a wonderful tribute. God bless.

  4. chag sameach Marzipan. I know I'll be thinking of Heather as we fill Miriam's cup tonight.

  5. And now I'm getting teary-eyed again. Beautiful post.