Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Death, friends, time...

So this post is about the death of friends. I know, it's a horrible subject. The reality is this. Friends die. Pets die...we're in line for this same thing and time, time is swift.

I want to honor the first friend that passed recently, Marybeth Gotchall. Marybeth and I met over 20 years ago. She was part of a pack of people I hung out with when I first moved to Old Chatham in 1990. We were younger, much younger. I was merely 29 years old. Though Marybeth was older by about 10 years. She was single.  I was newly divorced. We melded together with a bunch of boys who were also single. We had a blast together... this motley crew... this little rat pack.

What was interesting about Marybeth was that unlike the rest of us, she had a young daughter, she had a cool cat named Bubba and her attitude toward life was very, let's say, Buddhist. It may have seemed that she just didn't give a crap about things, but that was just an illusion. She cared, but remained unattached. This is so very much the mind of a Buddha and this stuck with me.

I liked Marybeth right away. She loved to laugh. She loved to joke. She was happy with the little things, stupid stuff that others might find unsatisfying. She had a little piece of land in Michigan that she loved and talked about building a house on. She had a long time distant boyfriend called "Mr. Wright." We laughed about the irony of this person who wouldn't commit.
Marybeth was a talented painter. Some of her most distinctive art featured lillypads. This is a wonderful metaphor for Marybeth. She was beautiful and loved to float with only the slightest bit of attachment that lay under the surface that you couldn't really see.
Marybeth liked to enjoy herself, she worked when she needed to work and relaxed often.
Unfortunately she smoked cigarettes, and I think that this may have contributed to her poor health.
For a while we shared an apartment until I moved in with my boyfriend. Marybeth and I eventually parted ways. She started living and working in Albany, while I worked in the Berkshires. Occasionally we would run into each other. Like the time her daughter published a book of poetry and the day our group had a reunion at a fourth of July brunch. Through the years we remained friends and I wished, often, she wasn't so far away. Time passed and the years too and well, just a few months ago she discovered she had an aggressive cancer that took her quickly. Our mutual friend, Michael was at her side for months and is managing her affairs now that she's gone. It's truly admirable and kind that he is, was, remains so generous. I don't know how to process her passing really. It seems strange and sad to lose these people as they are hitting mid-life...acceptance is all I can manage now.

The second person to pass is not a friend, but the brother-in-law of my oldest brother, Dan. The reason I know him so well is similar to the first story. While in my 20s I was married and so were my brothers. We all lived very close to each other then in Connecticut and my Mother was alive then. All of us would hang out together. Me and my husband, my brothers and their wives and even the extended families. I got to know the brothers and sisters of my in laws. We were all the same age, newlyweds, there were no kids yet. It was so much fun.

John was the brother of my brother's wife. He was incredibly handsome, tall, gorgeous and smart. He had a sense of humor. He was kind. He was generous. What struck me most about John was he was humble and unassuming for a guy with this obvious strengths. Later he went to Wall Street, made millions of dollars and built a custom home in Westport Connecticut. I met and talked to him at family gatherings. The most recent was the wedding of my nephew in North Carolina three years ago. John always looked strong and healthy. He always made time for his sister and his parents.

 Today I got a message from my brother Dan, that John had died during cancer surgery just two days ago. I was in mild shock. It seemed incredible as this news always does. How? I asked when I called Dan. It was a delicate surgery. Something went wrong. He died while under anesthesia and my brother wondered if maybe this was merciful.
I gulped back a big bunch of tears. It's news you just don't want to get during the middle of your work day.
In conclusion I only have this. Time is swift. Lifetimes are limited. It's a blow when you hear someone has passed. It wakes you up in a way that no other news can. I feel the urge to get to it. Tell the people I love how much I love them. Write another book, close a few books still left open.  Get to it, get going, get on with it, whatever it is....