Saturday, February 20, 2010

on the death of a childhood friend

She was an extraordinarily accomplished academic writer and teacher, renowned internationally. We had been out of touch for a decade, and I discovered that for the last eight years she was enduring a debilitating disease, leading her to be unable to talk, although she kept her mental capacity to her death, even completing two major books during this period of time.

I remembered her most vividly from third grade on and especially in jr. high school. We danced together -- both of us tall and awkward beside the third best friend of our dancing trio, the one who was lithe and lovely o
n her feet and became a professional dancer. But all of us enjoyed each others' company, spending wonderful four-person sleep-overs on mattresses on the floor, jumping on and off beds, making up stories, giggling and giggling.

In jr. high, more serious, she and I shared many confidences, stories about our crushes, of course ... it was 7th grade ... Also participating in our young peoples church group, performing or singing in the church and learning
about civil rights and the war protest movement from our politically active group leaders, our eyes being opened in our very white, very conservative Boston suburb town.

In adulthood, we met perhaps three times when our paths were able to cross; sharing where our lives had taken us and also sharing new perspectives on our lives as children, hidden secrets now more easily explored in our conversations. Her academic achievements were quite extraordinary, but we shared a childhood friendship that needed no intellectual parsing. From the tributes to her written by her colleagues and students, I believe she approached her academic discussions in a similar way -- honest and open, with great respect and caring for others, interested in direct exchange with great humility on her part and focused and kind interest in the other.

An impact of learning of her passing has been the sharing of this information among a group of additional childhood friends. One other of this group is missing and greatly missed. Those of us here have a renewed commitment to keep in touch, to support and nourish each other, even if from a distance.

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