On Sunday, Ann, my good friend of 50 years, “relocated”.
She moved out of a body that had been slowly failing over the past couple of years due to COPD and found better accommodations. Far better.
She leaves behind her adoptive mother, two early 30-something daughters, and two adorable grandchildren. FYI, her daughters and grandchildren have her fiery red hair.
When we met as sophomores in high school in 1968, we were very much opposites. AGMA was quite shy, reserved and sort of boring. Ann was gregarious, outgoing and talented. She had an incredible zest for life.
I think we got to know each other because had the same lunch schedule, and hung out together in the cafeteria.
AGMA once snorted out – through my mouth and nose – a huge mouthful of cherry slushy onto Annie’s parent’s car’s dashboard and windshield. All over. She’d said something really funny right after I took a serious slurp of slushy.
We were that kind of friends.
When we were juniors, she tried to fix me up with a friend of her boyfriend. The only criteria for the fix-up was that I was shorter than the young man. The relationship didn’t last. Thankfully…
Annie and I stayed in touch though college and beyond though we lived many states apart.
She came to my wedding and I went to hers.
She had two daughters; AGMA had two sons. We sent each other birth announcements.
We only saw each other at decade separated high school reunions.
We were on track for one of those, “we were friends in high school, but we have nothing in common now so we’ll just send an annual Christmas card” type of relationships.
Then in 2003, both Annie and AGMA’s lives sort of fell apart. Different reasons, different circumstances; but semi-devastating to both of us.
And Ann and I started a whole new friendship. It was a relationship like I’ve had with nobody else in my life. We shared heart wrenching, soul exposing emails and telephone conversations. We cried together. And occasionally we laughed together. She had a wonderful laugh!
We truly listened to each other. We were brutally honest with each other. We didn’t judge each other. We shared words of wisdom with each other. We confessed to each other. We forgave each other.
We shared grace with each other.
AGMA came out on the other side of my crisis a few years later relatively okay.
But for my sweet Annie, it was only the beginning of the domino cascade.
Her husband of 25 years left her. And was very, very nasty about it.
Her father passed away.
She lost her full-time job during the recession. In her mid-50’s, she couldn’t find another FT job so had to take part-time jobs with no benefits to survive financially.
Her aging mother, with whom Annie had a lifetime contentious relationship, was no longer able to care for her large house in another state. Ann helped her mom sell her house and moved Mom in with her. It was a difficult transition. And didn’t improve with time.
A lifetime smoker, Annie was diagnosed with COPD.
The last time I saw Ann was in 2012, at her daughter’s wedding in Michigan. Together, we looked like Jack Sprat and his wife. She was exceedingly thin and AGMA was this pudgy lump. The picture is priceless! It was a beautiful wedding and Annie was so very happy.
AGMA tried to convince her to come to our 45th high school reunion in 2016, but by then, the COPD was taking over her body. She wouldn’t go. She wanted everybody, including me, to remember her as she was.
It broke my heart.
But boy, was she a fighter! She nearly died in late 2017. Her older daughter was pregnant with her second child. It was Annie’s fighting spirit that kept her alive until her sweet little redheaded grand daughter was born and then some.
AGMA found out in mid-December that Ann was under hospice care. Her daughter said it would be okay to try call her. Annie may or may not be able to talk with me depending on what kind of day she was having.
Lots of days were bad days.
It was one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever made. But I’m so very glad I made it. I even got to hear her laugh. I told her I loved her. In a weak voice she told me she loved me too.
I cried like a baby as soon as I hung up.
It’s only now, after she’s transitioned, do I fully realize how incredibly special and unique our friendship was.
AGMA has been greatly blessed.
I’ll be making that 800 mile trip on Friday to say my final goodbye to her.
But I’m pretty sure she said her goodbye to me…
On Sunday, the day she passed away, AGMA awakened in the wee hours of the morning. I felt this weird sensation and saw a brief – I mean instantaneously brief – flash of light. At the time, I wondered it Ann had died and she was visiting me before moving on. I chalked that thought up to AGMA dramatic middle of the night cray cray.
But when I found out Sunday afternoon that she passed in the early hours of the morning that day, I knew…
Save me a spot in the lunchroom beside you dear friend….