A couple of weeks ago, my mother called me to say she’d run into an old friend of mine and wanted me to know that the friend isn’t alright. She’s battled cancer off and on for several years, but last I’d heard, it was in remission. From my Mom I learned that not only was her cancer back, it was back with a vengeance. I immediately thought to write to her and tell her she was in my thoughts. She often is. This friend was my first mentor. She was the first grown-up who was more my friend than anyone else’s in my family and she was the first to really encourage my creativity. More than that, she gave me my first public art installation and full creative control over her public space without ever asking to see the idea on paper. She humored me at sixteen with all of my unabashed sassiness and sarcasm. She trusted me at a time where I didn’t feel like many grown-ups did. So why am I struggling to write to her?
Over the last few weeks, I have been reminded of the constant of life. The busy-factor will always be there. Two weeks ago, when our kids’ schoolmate passed away suddenly, our daughter pointed out how odd it was that time keeps moving for those of us still here. At the start of this week, we learned that our friends’ fiancé also passed away suddenly and again, we’re reminded that there is no guarantee of tomorrow for ANY of us. So why then am I struggling to write to my friend?
There is a small voice in the back of my head telling me that maybe she’s actually going to be fine. Maybe, if we don’t acknowledge the cancer, it will just go away. Maybe if I keep ignoring it, my Mom will take back the concerned phone call that started me in this downward spiral of denial. Or maybe (just maybe)…
I’ve heard several people who knew either of the two people in our circles who passed recently say “hug your loved-ones a little closer”. Hugging is the easy part so long as your loved-ones live close. It’s more difficult to reconcile with the knowledge that life’s busy-factor usually leads us down a path away from those loved-ones who formed us in our youth. Distance and time haven’t made me love them less but rather seem to have frozen our relationships wherever they were when last we were together. As social media works to superficially reconnect us, it can’t resolve time and distance or the nagging guilt that I’ve lost touch with so many who meant so much. I am the one who left. I’m the one who moved two states away. I could try and write myself a pass, but this particular friend DID try and stay in touch with cards and notes. I’m the one who got too ‘busy’.
For my friend, I am walking to the mailbox and dropping in a card. The note won’t rock anyone’s world, but the simple act of mailing it is a grander gesture than I’ve mustered in two decades. In her honor, I am putting myself to task for the summer to mail a card to SOMEONE out of state every week. As long as she is around to receive them, I’ll mail my friend one too. There’s something significantly more intimate about a hand-written note than an e-mail or a Facebook post. Perhaps it’s simply the lack of spell-check in handwriting that makes me feel more vulnerable? Whatever the reasons I’ve used to hesitate, I feel that the Universe is trying in it’s not-so-subtle-way to nudge me forward and open the Rolodex. Time to connect.