As I struggle with coming up with fresh content for this blog, I am in deep thought about six friends who have died within the past two weeks — one of them a close skydiving buddy, four others who were wonderful people with whom I worked in my past life (previous long-term job), and one very close friend very recently. The most recent death was…
… not unexpected, but caught me a little by surprise. The friend who died was a woman as close as a sister who lived in the small Oklahoma town where I grew up in my childhood and with whom I worked as a volunteer in my adult life.
My friend, BC, was bright, vivacious, and a tremendous example of someone who always had other’s needs in mind. She sacrificed so much for herself for the betterment of others. She worked for a small non-profit community-based organization, and built it into a well-recognized powerhouse of leadership and service to 17 counties serving thousands of square miles of southeastern Oklahoma.
She worked and worked and worked… 16-hour days were common, especially when people were in need and services she corralled to their aid were required. My friend also was very committed to other community-based activities and organizations. When she was done working, she volunteered more of her time in service to her community.
I was proud to serve as a volunteer for her, along side her, and in service to her organization’s constituency in Oklahoma. I would find many reasons to return, even long after I settled in Maryland as a permanent home-base. I frequently took a week’s vacation time once or twice each year to return to work with my friend, and have fun as well.
We had lots of fun together. I have many fond memories of things we did from building an office and community space in the old high school, to walks by the lake and caves, to having breakfast “just so” with her long-time companion who she eventually married.
In 2000, I paid for an airline ticket for her and she flew to spend a week with me and The Spouse (then partner) in our house. I took a week off work and showed her the sights of Maryland. She was especially interested in Maryland’s religious diversity, so I took her to visit the Mormon Temple of Washington, the founding Friends Meeting House (Quakers), a mosque (she had never seen or observed that), and took her to our local Catholic church. She loved it.
She made a pittance of an annual salary — below poverty wage — throughout her working life. But her service to others was more important to her than money. She scraped by and with the support of her wider community, she made a life that she loved — and with a community that loved her back.
I am grieving once again for the loss of a dear friend. I will cherish our memories of our times together for a long, long time.
Ya know, it’s hell getting old. When you’re a kid, all you want to be is older. When you are in your 20s and 30s, you see all of your friends getting married, having children, and “adulting.”
When you reach my age, your friends begin to die. That hurts. Especially so many in such a relatively short time.
Life is short: cherish your friends and show them how you love them.