Balcony People

imageI had a good friend who died a few years ago. I am thinking about her today, because I just learned that her husband passed away this morning. She was about 35 years older than I. We were kindred spirits. She was who I hope to be in 35 years and I think I reminded her of her younger self. She was an author, a therapist, a mother, a wife of a Dean, and a woman who always wore purple. She loved Charles Dickens and Department 56 villages.

We would meet once a month at Panera and have orange scones and lattes and talk about the challenges of being a devoted mother and dedicated professional. We would talk about how to be an assertive woman in a world that wasn’t sure what that looked like.

Caryl survived uterine cancer in her 40’s in a time when women didn’t survive uterine cancer. She was a PhD of sex therapy at a time when people didn’t talk about such things. She was a brave lady.

I moved away about two years before she died. One day, I got a call that she was in the ICU and I drove immediately to her bedside. She had tubes all over her and couldn’t speak, but we spoke with our eyes. I told her about my job and my kids and what they were up to, and she would nod and move her eyebrows up and down with great counselor active listening skills.

I held her hand and rubbed lavender lotion on her arms and sang her songs. Finally it was time to leave and I kissed her goodbye. She died that night.

Caryl is always with me. She is the voice of reason that reminds me that I am braver than I think I am. She is the example of listening and interest I try to emulate with others. I miss her, and yet I know she remains in my balcony, cheering me on. I feel very lucky to have had such a special friendship with Caryl. I hope I honor her by being for someone else what she was for me. We all need people in our balcony. We need people who look over us and cheer us on, prodding us along, believing in our greater selves. Thank God that in life and in death, those who love us remain in our balconies.

I think she was waiting for her husband to show up in heaven today. If he is looking for her, she will be the one wearing the big, purple hat.

I don’t eat lattes and orange scones anymore, not without Caryl.

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