Those of you who have read my book will remember this remarkable woman.
A lifelong friend is a treasure. One who usually knows more about you than your family; including your mate and children. Experiences are shared that come from the depths of your souls, things that the oneness of such a friendship form into an eternal bond. Loss of a friendship like this gouges a hole in the gut of the remaining friend that nothing can repair. Recently, I lost my friend of over fifty years.
Ann Eunice called out to me from her home, on a blustery winter's night, as I was walking home from the corner store. "Come on in and have a brandy to get warm." We were strangers, yet I didn't hesitate. I was not just cold, I was lonely, newly moved into a house down the block in a small beach town on Long Island.
We talked for hours as if we'd always known each other. She had three kids, I had four. Her husband was killed falling from a high-rise apartment in Manhattan where he worked as maintenance engineer. Mine was bartender for a local well-known restaurant and worked long hours. Ann Eunice, never shortened to just Ann, was twelve years older than me and filled with innate wisdom that I soon came to rely upon. On that bleak night she became my mentor, my sister, my friend.
We spoke and saw each other often, getting involved in each others lives for over twelve years. She and her second husband, Johnny, were godparents to my fifth child. The following year she bore a late in life son who thought he was a cousin to my own six kids.
My family moved out west and then to Pennsylvania, trying to find a safe place to raise our children, and Ann Eunice moved out to Arizona for similar reasons. Long distant calls weren't free then, so we communicated by letters. How grateful I am to have saved all of hers.
She called when my daughter, her godchild, was killed by a drunk driver--but we were unable to speak--our fierce love for Noelle rendered us both mute. Instead, she prayed. Eventually, we both moved back to New York, but hours apart by car. Yet we were always there for each other, visiting now and again, and still writing. We attended our children's weddings together and were together again when Johnny died.
Ann Eunice moved back to her beloved Arizona to live near her oldest son, while I stayed in New York. We could make free calls now and talk for hours, which we did; sharing the ups and downs, the large and small tragedies of our lives. I had heart attacks, she had a stroke. We were both survivors, but she was the one I went to for comfort, for love and advice.
Now she's gone--suddenly--from a hospital infection that went septic. She took a part of me with her when she left this world--a part that I'll never get back. And I don't think I want it back, as all we shared is forever etched upon my heart. Fifty years of memories are stored within my mind and soul--to be taken out and relived, wept over and placed gently back until needed again. These memories ease my sorrow and comfort me when I reach for the phone to call her . . . then remember that she's no longer there.