Inspired by a Friend's Death
It’s a great feature, isn’t it, when Facebook reminds you of a friend’s birthday? We all get caught up in our daily lives and sometimes we forget, so I’m all for anything that helps. It didn’t feel so great last week, though, when it reminded me of Jo Stewart’s birthday. Jo died last year.Jo was the leader of my first writing group: poet, creative writing professor, force of nature. The group grew out of a life-story writing class because we got along and didn’t want to stop meeting. It lasted six years, until Penny died. The rest of us didn’t feel like meeting without her. The last time I saw Jo, at a holiday lunch for the second group she led, I had the horrible feeling that I’d never see her again. A few weeks later, she was dead.
I wrote about her memorial service here. I gave Alice, one of the other original group members, a ride to the service. We promised to keep in touch. And then...we didn’t. I sent her a copy of the last book in the Friend Grief series, but heard nothing back. I sent a Christmas card. No response. Well, she must be all right, I reasoned, because the mail wasn’t returned. Though I was often near the retirement community where she lives, I never stopped by. Then I got the reminder about Jo’s birthday.
Oh, what the hell? I walked up to the front desk and asked if Alice still lived there. Yes, she was just finishing lunch. They’d let her know I was there.
I was relieved, to put it mildly. Alice was as lively and alert as usual. I apologized for not keeping in touch and told her that I was reminded that Jo’s birthday was that day. “Really?” she asked. “It seems like she’s been gone so long.” I didn’t disagree.
We caught up while Alice gave me a tour of the gorgeous place where she lives: fitness center, formal and informal dining rooms, library, beauty parlor, lap pool, art studio, community garden. Anyone of any age would love to live there. She has transportation to shopping and events, with guest speakers presenting on site daily. Her daughter lives nearby, but Alice is fully engaged in this beautiful place.
Alice is lucky. Her physical health is remarkably good for 92. She had the resources to be able to live in a high-end retirement community. She was considering turning down an invitation to go to Arizona in October for her 93rd birthday because “the weather’s not as good as it is in February. I’d rather go then.”
When we parted, we exchanged phone numbers again. I promised to call next week when I’m back in town so we can schedule lunch or dinner.
As I drove away, I was grateful I’d finally faced my embarrassment so I could see Alice again. And I thought to myself, “Thanks, Facebook. Thanks, Jo.”