Who would I most like to talk to? She and I have made plans for her to meet me when I cross over.
My dearest friend always met me at The Fence. We agreed she would meet me at The Gates.
We met each other at a lonely time for both of us. I hadn’t had a neighbor closer than two miles for four years; she had moved next door to me and was caring for her invalid father-in-law. Giving such care is so difficult under the best of circumstances; caring for him in our location was perhaps the worst of circumstances. Each time the rescue squad was needed, they had to be met several miles from our houses as they had no idea how to find us; not a road was named or marked.
During my four years without a neighbor, I had installed a six-foot fence in hopes of achieving two things: 1. Keeping the deer from eating our fruit trees and fruit and 2. Keeping our two huge dogs from eating the mailman. Yes, the mailman knew the area far better than did the rescue folks. I had a door put in on one side of the fence just in case another adventurous family decided to try living in the wild for a bit.
Well, that family did move in and as most families did, they moved out several years later; it was a tough life out there. The years they lived there were grand years; I made a friend for life and for after death.
Our introduction to the family was when the fellow came over and walked down to the dock and asked my son what he was using for bait. “Bait,” my young son asked, “what’s that?” “Oh, my God,” said the fellow, “let’s go talk to your momma.” And so they did. Needless to say, before too long, my young son was carrying fish next door to be cleaned and cooked and eaten. And before too long, he made a worm bed from a baby's wading pool and that worm bed sure flourished.
My only comment to the fellow was, “You could have lived out here a long, long time before telling him about bait.”
My friend was married to that fellow; yes, it was a tough life out there – but it was tough for her out there and in town, too.
She and I had some grand, grand times together. The ones I remember the most were the phone calls that always began, “Can you meet me at the fence?” We talked for hours and hours and hours at the fence under the tall Georgia pines. Never really went through the gate – that would mean we’d run into family and have to stop our talking.
As I said, they moved in a few years and I was so heartbroken to see her leave. But I didn’t know what heartbroken was at that time. I learned shortly, though. Less than a year passed before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then a year or so later, spots on her kidneys. Then a year or so later, spots on her liver. But she was a soldier and neither the cancer nor the chemo killed her.
Until the next July. The demon popped up in her brain and she had no more to give. I understood. During a phone call early that December she asked for my older son’s phone number. I gave it to her. We talked a bit more. I could tell she was getting tired and said I’d call tomorrow. “Right,” she laughed. The laugh took me off guard; I figured maybe it was the morphine. "Night, night, sweetie," I said. "Till tomorrow," she answered.
My older son called in about ten minutes and said, “Mom, you are on a flight from Philly to Atlanta leaving tomorrow at 1pm. A car at Enterprise has been reserved. Go see her.”
Those four days were four of the best days of my life. We laughed and cried. I fed her ice chips and rubbed her back. She introduced me to the people she saw on the wall. She asked me why people were talking to her as if she was not going to die. "I guess that's easier on them," I said. "Would you rather have them talk about your dying?" "Yes," she said. "Okay." I talked to her family but they weren't ready for her to go -- they just couldn't discuss dying with her. What a shame.
We remembered the past and talked about the future. We met at the fence; she’ll meet me at the gate.
ps I left her on December 21 and she died on December 24. She was an angel indeed, even a Christmas one.
This is a really compelling story about what true friendship is. I enjoyed every word of it. Nicely done Karen!! Would their family would appreciate a link to read this?
Actually, I think her family would prefer not to hear from me again.... but your thought was a kind one. Thanks.