Gifts come in many shapes and sizes. They come in the form of material things, spiritual things and friendships. Friendships ebb and flow, life, time and distance often limits interactions with those once held close. In spite of that fact memories, feelings and admiration keep personal connections within the heart. The heart expands and contracts with fondness, sadness, laughter and sorrow.
The gift of friendship has been given to me, more times than I can count. Although a consumate collector of friends, I do not speak with all of these friends consistently, if at all. I believe the hallmark of a good friend is the ability to pick up where you leave off and not to worry about the inbetween.
I spent one full year living in Washington State. I had broken up with a fiance two years before, I was diagnosed with depression for the first time in my life, I climbed to the top of Mt. St. Helen's, used explosives to unearth fossils, used a back hoe and met some amazing people.
My first or second day after moving in, I was invited to a neighbor's house to her daughter's birthday party. We clicked instantly. She was warm, gregarious, beautiful, intelligent and full of wit. We spent a lot of time together solving the world's problems, solving my problems and sharing our life stories. We would spend hours at her kitchen table drinking sun tea out of ginormous cups, conversing.
Her daughter was just 10 at the time and we spent time playing together. We played outside, we played inside, we put her rat in the bathtub eventhough her mother told us not to. We were howling with laughter as the rat jumped out and locked the front door to ensure mom wouldn't find out.
She loved Abraham Lincoln and being a democrat. She helped and cared for everyone, she did not have much but what she did have she shared without hesitation. When she didn't have money for something, she bartered services to ensure her daughter had everything she needed. She was fiercly loyal and called her aunt every Sunday. She was a flight attendant and traveled the world.
Her home was immaculate - she vacuumed twice a day - it is the only way to keep a nice carpet in good shape, she would say. She loved fine things and was well educated. She read voraciously and had one of the prettiest homes on the block. She had a great laugh and always wore her glasses on a string around her neck, always. She wanted the best for those that she loved, especially her daughter. She listened to classical music and when she was on the radio, Dr. Laura. She always told me not to 'shack up.'
The last time I saw her was 10 or 11 years ago. I visted a few years before I got married and certainly before I had children. Our interactions had been reduced to Christmas cards and letters. I would get a letter after the hustle and bustle of the holidays subsided. She would provide me with a treatise on all of the activites of the previous year. It is hard to describe the love and admiration I have for this woman.
I learned last week that she was in the hospital, it was an honor to call her my friend - my family - and to be one of those with her when she died.
I worried that she didn't know what an impact she had on me and my life. I worried that she didn't know how much I loved her. As I was flying across the country I disected all of my memories of our interactions, I laughed with tear filled eyes. I was comforted to know that whenever we corresponded I closed with 'love.' She was truly one of a kind and will be missed by legions of people.
Rest in peace Jude, rest in peace. With great love and fondness - Betz