This photo, taken in 1991 of me and my friend, was in our newspaper as part of the "Commend a Friend" column. "L" and I met in the 70's through an organization to which we both belonged. We instantly "clicked" and quickly became best friends, as much as the difference in our ages would allow. She was 24 years my senior, but that never made a difference. Here is the copy that appeared with the photo:
"L" has been my best friend for many of the 20 years I've known her. There's quite a difference in our ages, but I hardly realize that she's older because her outlook on life is so youthful and forward-thinking. We share many interests; including antiques, books, and especially her grandchildren. I admire "L" so much; for her convictions, her courage and her always good-natured perseverance through life. Although she has been in poor health for the past year, she seldom mentions it and never complains. In the years to come, when she is no longer with me, I will treasure the memories I hold of this remarkable woman."
"L" was divorced early in her marriage, and raised two children on her own as the bookkeeper for a small local company. Life was difficult on many levels, but she maintained a sunny attitude about her troubles, at least on the surface. By the time I met her, her children were grown and married, though both of them also had marital troubles, and she worried about them a lot.
I had wanted to submit our story for publication in the Commend a Friend column for a long time, but procrastination reared its ugly head. Finally I wrote the copy and sent it to the paper, only to be informed that there were so many on the waiting list that we might have to wait a long time. A short time later, I learned that "L" had colon cancer, and the prognosis was for 3-6 months. I called the newspaper and asked them to reconsider our story, since she might not live long enough to see it. They agreed, and sent the photographer to capture us together. The article appeared shortly thereafter, and "L" was obviously gratified to have the commendation. Her pleasure at seeing it was a great satisfaction for me, because I wanted nothing more than to make her happy.
She died 4 months later, and I still think of her often and marvel at the impact she had on my life. She had little formal education, but she was wise in common sense and very observant of her surroundings. At her funeral, her daughter-in-law said that "L" was my substitute mother. I took issue with that, because if anything, she was like an older sister to me. On reflection, I realized that if I could have chosen my mother - she would have been the one. I just happened to be with her at the moment she left this life, and I have always considered that an honor. I do treasure my memories of her, and when my life gets stressful, I remember "L" and think of how she would have handled it. In life, she never failed to "mellow me" and now she is doing it in death.