My friend, Anna, died suddenly yesterday morning in Virginia. She went there for peace and good company.
I knew her for a bit more than a year. When we met, it was in a cafe in summer. She wore a long, bright blue dress, and her hair in twin plaits as pictured above. She struck me then as a real self. Somebody who knew what she wanted, how to define herself, and was at ease in her skin.
She owned a B&B/Ski Resort, and we talked this past winter about the perils of self employment when I helped her editing the January/February issue of The Williamsport Guardian. She was the volunteer editor. She also held a law degree and a teaching certificate.
I was introduced to her through a mutual acquaintance because I wanted to write for the paper. We chatted over coffee and she had a bagel. We were easy together, it did not feel like an audition or an interview, though it was. We laughed and talked about religion. I do not discuss religion or politics on a first meeting, but Anna was one of those rare humans who accepted everyone for precisely who she was, without a whisper of assessment.
She was a Christian Scientist. I had a grandmother who was a Christian Scientist. Anna told me a bit about it; I was always interested, but my parents are rigidly a peculiar sort of Christian, and they do not traverse in other forms of Christianity. I was and am interested in using spirituality and thought to overcome illness.
I was only just forming a more personal connection with Anna. She knew of an unlikely but good Thai restaurant tucked away in the hills near where we live. There is an exceptional hike nearby. We were going to go on an Adventure and Meal hike this summer. Anna invented the concept of “Adventure and a Meal” to write a column for the paper which she never got around to doing. She was a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and urged me to follow him and Amanda Palmer on twitter so as to observe their sweet, newlywed banter; I am glad I did.
When we spoke on the phone last week, she did not acknowledge that it could be the last time we did, though there was something in her voice that told me it may be. Just a couple of weeks before, we’d talked about our hike; Anna was full of excitement. When I mentioned it on the phone, a promise of her return, there was strained wistfulness under her audibly forced smile when she said, “yeah, sure.”
I am so sad for Anna’s family.
I am going to spend today being mindful of a friendship cut too short, of self and ambition, and thinking about how to be myself with conviction, as Anna was.
Please, if you read this today–or any day–take a moment to wish Anna’s family and friends peace. And to remember that now is a gift. Choose an action or behavior you want to change and do it. That’s how Anna lived. Not in hesitation, but with temerity.