I asked Wendy, about a month ago, if I might write about her on my blog. She said, “Well, what is there to write about? But, yes, sure. That would be fabulous.” ‘Fabulous’ was something that Wendy said…about good food, beautiful places, and even about a wild flower found along a trail. As I pour over the myriad of wildflower images that I snapped along our various walks and hikes over the years, I selected these two because today, they seem to mark my feelings best and capture the magic of what a true friend is. The first flower is a wild orchid. We were always so excited when we spotted a variety of orchid….typically hidden and not very showy…just remarkably beautiful and tucked away in some rich loam under a bush, usually in the shade.
Yesterday morning my sister-friend slipped out of this world and moved mysteriously into the next…and she did this without ever seeing my words written down.
I’ve decided to sit with thoughts of Wendy this morning, while the sun shines bright on the snow. Somehow it feels warmer today.
I attended the concluding evening of a church mission that was hosted in our parish last evening, prayed for the peaceful repose of Wendy…for the journey that my brother is taking…for my family and dear friends. The priest shared something interesting, once finishing up the Gospel reading about service…the one that’s read every Holy Thursday about Jesus bending down and washing his disciples’ feet… he said, serving one another does not always mean saying a whole lot…sometimes it means just sitting and being with the other. So, this morning, I’m sitting with thoughts of Wendy and I’m not going to say a whole lot.
There will be a whole number of people who over the coming days and weeks, months and years, will talk about Wendy’s accomplishments because she was indeed, an accomplished woman, coach, teacher, political force to be reckoned with, orator, curriculum writer, baker, crocheter, wife, cadet…she was all of that and more, but this morning as I contemplate why the huge ache in my heart, I realize that it was the enduring presence that is Wendy, the friend, to me that I most celebrate. So, I will not let this post be about anything but that, her love and wisdom and friendship. What I wish to most strongly communicate is Wendy’s courage and fortitude and extreme vulnerability…those qualities that Wendy gave through her presence with me and with our group, affectionately named the Ya Ya sisterhood.
The other sisters; Val, Darlene, Carla and Cathy; had the blessed opportunity to work with Wendy some years before our first meeting. It was Val who invited me to join in the regular gatherings with her circle of friends in order to enjoy food, drink, lively conversation and a hot tub now and then at Darlene’s. I was a very vulnerable person at the time, digging deep in order to stay afloat, raising three children on my own, all the while trying to do a great job as a teacher. I am forever-grateful for the friendships that were established at the time and how they have continued to change my life for richness of experience, knowledge and love.
Our activities included regular hiking, gourmet dining hosted by Wendy and her husband Darren and wonderful daughter, Becca…basement movie gatherings and themed photo opportunities. We consumed, voraciously, the times we had together, always rallying around the person(s) who was/were feeling most overwhelmed at the time, offered genuine support to one another, invaluable advice and resource-sharing. Wendy gave me confidence. She also had one heck of a sense of humour. She was a straight-shooter and never muted a point. Her determination and will was contagious. We have, over the years, all benefited from her drive and her commitment.
Wendy had an ability to roll with the punches. She lightly jested that she was much like a unicorn because her health matters that gradually grew to be insurmountable were uniquely challenging. I admired how hard she pushed against every obstacle and I was inspired by the strength of her family and the love that the three of them shared.
On Monday, I sat watched Wendy enjoy a bowl of Thai Soup while I ate a Greek Salad in the Fanning Center cafeteria. It was all so ordinary. We said ordinary things with one another. And, I’ve decided that this is what life is, a long string of ordinary moments. It is right to enjoy each of those. A cup of ice. Saying hello to the other person in the elevator. Advocating for support. Leaning down for that embrace at “Good-bye”. Laughing at the ritual of asking a complete stranger to take a photograph…
Late that night, my cell phone rang…I didn’t get it in time. It was Wendy’s number on my phone.
I called back and Wendy didn’t pick up. I’ll always wonder what Wendy might have said. More than anything, I will remember.
Oh what a treasure to have shared the mountain air with Wendy…fabulous food…nice drinks on a back deck, laughing and talking and looking up at the stars. I will love you always, dear friend…and nothing will take these years from me.
It is 4:00 in the afternoon, on Valentine’s Day. It has been a blessing to look over photographs and to think about all of the wonderful times we have enjoyed. Good-bye, good and faithful servant.
These images are a small sampling and many moments are buried in my archives or sitting on some one else’s camera…but these offer the gist of a remarkable friendship.
Hiking Ya Yas