Monday, September 26, 2011

Saying Goodbye

BFF - on the occasion of Lora's 100th birthday three years ago April
Sad news came winging its way over the telephone wires today. My wonderful friend Lora, who turned 103 this past April, changed form today. There will be no more adventures for us. Though there were nearly 40 years between our ages, she still introduced me to everyone she knew as her best friend. I was honored to claim that title. 

Among other things, Lora had been a school teacher, a farmer's wife, a cross country skier, a painter, and a avid fisherman. She loved trying new things and each time I visited I found her embroiled in some new activity. In her seventies she took up oil painting and then watercolors. In her 80s she got her first computer. In her 90s she studied handwriting and feng shui. After her husband died, she lived alone until she was 102, and only in the last few months did she go from having home health aides to a room in a nursing home. 

I miss her sorely though she's only been gone a few hours. Tears come easily when I remember that I will never see her again. They dry on my cheeks though when I remember what a wonderful friend she was, what happy adventures we've shared and how lucky I was to have had her as a best friend.

I wrote this poem on her 100th birthday after talking with her about her long and busy life. Now I post it here again in her memory.

Lora Remembers

100 years of mornings,
of sunrises that spilled liquid gold
down Vermont’s rugged hillsides;
dew that sparkled on a million
summer spider webs; a cow’s warm
breath on her hands and the warmer
milk; fishing the wily creeks and still
ponds at her father’s side;
running up the hill to school;
McGuffy’s First Reader and lunch in a blue
lard bucket; boarding as the teacher;
rain that turned dirt roads to mud;
riding a hay rake, a baler, a plow;
70 years of marriage, of cooking and
washing and mending, of quilting
and knitting and sewing;
driving a Model-T;
flying solo in a small plane;
barn raisings and song fests and gramophones
and new-fangled radios; television and jet planes
and a cruise to Alaska 85 years after
that first morning 100 years ago.

She remembers 100 years of evenings,
of listening to the nightjar whistle,
of scarlet sunsets and sparking fireflies;
dashing to the half-moon door in the
darkness; carrying a lantern up the cold
back stairs; woodstoves and hand pumps
and knee-deep snows; sugaring-off in spring;
summer nights so hot you slept on a blanket
on the lawn; darkness so pure you could
count the stars; nights of terror when fire
struck; nights of music and dancing, of kitchen junkets;
of family suppers; lonely nights, nights of weeping
and missing her man; nights of wondering, pondering
the future, the meaning of it all; nights of remembering
family and old friends gone on before—

100 years of living behind her. Now she looks ahead.

So do I. Farewell, Lora.


Tabor said...

What a lovely tribute. I am jealous of her rich life and her wonderful friends, such as you. Guess that is going to motivate me ot live a better more focused life...I hope!

Rubye Jack said...

What an inspiration she must have been to you. She makes us think well, perhaps I can do that also.
Such a nice poem.

Brian Miller said...

that is a lovely tribute to her...i am glad she could appreciate it before today...i am truly sorry for your loss....

steven said...

pauline this is such a tender reckoning of a life that has so deeply touched that of your own. what an astonishing journey! steven

Judith said...

What a lucky and wise woman to have lived her life to the very last drop --
And lucky you, who shared so much of it with her.

June said...

How fortunate, how blessed you and Lora have been to have found each other and had such a friendship!
You will miss her sorely, but how rich your life is for having had her!

molly said...

Rest in peace Lora. You'll always have your wonderful memories Pauline....

Teri said...

You both were so lucky to have each other. She was a good friend to you and you to her. That is all that really matters. I hope that her transition was an easy one. Till you meet again...

Kerry said...

What a life, a long and beautiful life. I never expect people like this to die, but it happens anyway.

Your poem is perfect.

Reya Mellicker said...

I love Steven's comment, that this post is a "tender reckoning." Indeed.

And I LOVE it that at age 80, she wore her first bikini. First? I guess that means there were other bikinis.

Wow, what a woman! What a friendship. Wow.

Pauline said...

Tabor - she was a remarkable woman and a terrific friend. She was so interested in everything around her that there was never a dull moment in her company. As an aside, I've been unable to comment on some of your more recent posts as I get a malware notice when I do!)

Thanks, Towanda. You sum up our relationship pretty well.

Thanks Brian M. We loved each other :)

Steven. thanks - her life was a remarkable journey, one I was privileged to be part of. I just wish we didn't have to go on separate ones now.

J - yes she was spunky right to the end, vowing, despite a broken right hip and a fractured left, that she would get out of the nursing home before Christmas and go back to her old life...

June you are so right. Her friendship surely enriched my life!

Molly, I will indeed and they are marvelous memories!

Teri - only in the last three months or so had she been in really dire straits. She used to say she wanted to live to 106 and if she was still having fun, she'd stick around a while longer. I really thought for a while she might make it.

Kerry - I knew she would go some day, but like you say, I didn't expect it. We had a great friendship and I will miss her, do miss her acutely. But, the love never goes away, thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

Friendship transcends ages. She sounds like an amazing woman and obviously she recognized and treasured what she saw in you. This is a beautiful tribute! Sending a hug!

Out on the prairie said...

Lovely thoughts for a good friend. I love to brainstorm with people like this, they are a wealth of information.

Pauline said...

Barbara - she was an amazing woman, always interested in new things. I am going to miss her a lot but I have wonderful memories!

OOTP - we had such fun doing that poem. I've written about our adventures together often - when I wrote for the newspaper our stories appeared regularly enough that my readers felt they knew her too.

Ruth said...

This carries me off, Pauline, and also grounds me. What a beauty of a life. So many eras lived, things seen, experienced. Your poem for her birthday must have brought her great joy, as it does me this morning. The language and images are just beautiful. Thank you.

red dirt girl said...

oh this brings tears to my eyes. thank you for the lovely remembrance!


Hilary said...

Pauline, this such a beautiful way to celebrate your dear friend's life. I am so sorry for your loss but also happy for you, for all of the joy you experienced in being her best friend. Hugs to you.

Pauline said...

Thank you Ruth - we did indeed have a great time writing this all down. Lora said, when it was written, "Gosh! I've lived quite a life!" Indeed she had. I'll miss her.

RDG - been shedding tears since I heard she was gone.

Hilary - thank you. I'm glad I got to be among her stories :)

Barbara said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your special friend, who inspires all of us to push ahead into old age. Maybe you will follow in her footsteps, living past 100 and filling your days, months, and years with such interesting things.

herhimnbryn said...

A good tribute to our dear friend, P. I like to that you say she has 'changed form'. My heartfelt best wishes to you. It is those of us left behind who have the tears.

Anonymous said...

A moving tribute, Pauline. How fortunate we might all hope to be to reach such an age sustained by such friendship.