Tonight I had a phone call from the daughter of a long time friend who is one of my heroes. My friend died six months ago so this was one of those sad/happy moments. Raquel and I shared memories of her mom and it was a good time together.
After we hung up, as I was telling David of our conversation, he and I began reminiscing about Mardi. After he went to bed (I being the nightowl), I began to think of all the things she taught me. These are just five.
First, she taught me acceptance. When things were going badly, she would smile broadly and say, "Well, it is what it is." No matter how frustrating the situation, "It is what it is" seemed to soften the blow. We each suffered quite a few blows that needed softening. One of the worst of those was when she called to tell me she had terminal cancer. "It is what it is" was not nearly enough to soften that blow. In usual Mardi fashion she admonished me, "Don't start throwing dirt on me til I quit breathing. We're all dying from the moment we're born. I intend to enjoy every breath I have left." And she did.
Secondly, she taught me perseverance. We worked together for a number of years. At one point, we had a manager who was exemplary in his talent for proclaiming the worst oxymorons as though they were divine truth. This unusual talent made for some very uncomfortable moments during staff meetings. That is, until Mardi adjusted my perspective.
As we walked out of one such meeting (I fuming with eyes rolling), Mardi waved her arms up and down like a bird trying to catch an updraft. "Like a flock of eagles, we shall rise above it."
From that moment on, all it took to calm us was for the other one to flap our hands ever so briefly. Then, the problem became keeping a straight face. Thanks to Mardi, I have risen far more miles than I have flown.
A third thing she taught me was the value of maintaining presence. She had a rare gift for entering a room (regardless of whether she had left just moments before, months or even years before) and resuming conversation as naturally as though she had never left. She moved away from Rome before I did but, for several years, returned each year for Christmas. The third year she did so, we promised never to buy a Christmas present for each other again. Why? That was the third year in a row that she in Miami and I in Rome had bought each other the identical present. Instead, ever after that, we bought ourselves a present from the other. Then, a day or so before Christmas, I would call her (or she me) and tell her (or she me) what she "had gotten me" for Christmas (or I her). It was our own private joke. We saved a lot of postage over the years!
Another thing she taught me was sharing. We shared griefs and joys and even the times of "still water". When we had a windfall, however small, we would share it with the other. I still remember an instance a few months after David and I moved to Atlanta. Finances were strained to say the least. Mardi had a windfall and she sent me a check with instructions that every penny must be spent on myself. It took a couple of weeks for me to decide what to buy for myself. One thing was a Hershey with almonds. Another: a bag of tropical trail mix. I think I also bought a skirt. But, the real prize was a clock I still have although I've had to replace the mechanism twice. It is in the shape of a teapot. That brown teapot shaped clock is in my group of things for Josh to have when I am gone. It reminds me of the kind of sharing that only love between friends can offer.
The fifth thing she taught me that I will share in this posting was how big a hole is left in one's life when a good friend dies. The heart remains enlarged by that friend but there is a friend-sized hole left in one's life.
It is what it is.