We met in the fourth grade at a choir rehearsal at St. Jerome’s Church in North Weymouth, Massachusetts.
We went to our first Newport Folk Festival in 1966. We had just graduated from high school earlier that summer. We had to beg our parents to let us go. We slept in my 1951 Pontiac–she in in the back seat, and I in the front. We attended other Newport Folk Festivals, including 1967, where we sat on the ground and heard this young guy, Arlo Guthrie, run through an anti-war story/song he called “Alice’s Restaurant.” We laughed so hard, I thought we might have needed new underwear by the time he was finished. We watched the moon landing on July 20, 1969 while at the Newport Folk Festival, thanks to the organizers having placed two large black-and-white TVs at the festival entrance. We could watch U.S. astronauts walk on the moon and still hear music from the main stage.
We played out guitars and sang whenever we
could. We lovedrthe songs of Peter, Paul and
Mary (which often turned out to be those of Bob
Dylan) and Tom Paxton.
We were roommates in various apartments in the Boston area–Beacon Hill and Cambridge, for example. She moved to another apartment in Dorchester at one point.
She was the feisty red head whom all the boys followed, hoping to have a chance with her. But she gave her heart to a marine biologist who had been in the Peace Corps and needed to go to Hawaii to do research on some marine creature that only exists in Hawaii. When they were married, I was their “best woman” on top of a mountain overlooking Hawaii’s Diamond Head.
We had other adventures. More recently, she attended the weddings of our two adult children, and my husband and I attended the marriage of her older daughter.
Later in life, she and her husband were adventurers. They climbed mountains in Nepal, Machu Picchu, and even part of Everest. They trekked the 48 summits in New Hampshire for practice. They loved the outdoors and braved the elements. I often told her that my idea of camping was going to a low-end motel. Hers was climbing a mountain in a snowstorm.
Everything sounds fine, right? Two seventy-somethings enjoying retirement?
But no. She’s gone now. She died from pancreatic cancer after having fought it with everything she had for more than two years. Her family members tell me she never complained while she was getting the best care available at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Center.
But how do you say goodbye to someone with whom you have so many memories? Someone who was with you when President John F. Kennedy was assassinate. When you were waiting to see if you’d been accepted to college. When you were not invited to the high school prom until the last minute but encouraged you until you were. When you were planning your wedding and your future mother-in-law was trying to thwart you at every turn. When she was lost at sea for 18 hours and no one knew if she’d ever be found. When you had your first child at age thirty and she waited until she was thirty-eight. And on and on.
I joined her family and some of her friends at her memorial service on Monday, November 13th. It was emotional for everyone, but everyone agreed that she was no longer suffering from the personal pain that pancreatic cancer had brought her. Her daughters and husband recounted. with passion the effects she had on their lives. The chaplain from the cancer center shared how much she’d learned from my friend. Another friend recited Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”: “These woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep…”
How appropriate for a woman who had boundless energy, kept her promises, and left the world a better place than it was when she arrived in March 1949. How appropriate for those of us left behind, who have promises to keep in her honor.
Promises to keep. And miles to go before we sleep.
Rest in peace, dear friend.