Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Remembering a Friendship

Supermoon Judi & I howled at in 2011
It's been a year since my artist friend, Judi, died. She had a thing about howling at the full moon. So I found it fitting, as I stood gazing up at the sky last night, that at midnight the current full moon went into full eclipse, as if in tribute to my friend and her passing. I thought that if she were still alive, she'd be gazing up at that moon and howling, and I'd feel compelled to join her, just like when she visited me a few years back during another full moon. I was tempted to give out a little howl last night, but I'm living in a development now, one that was oh so quiet at midnight, save for the noisy frogs. So I gave a silent howl in tribute instead.

Mini signature friendship quilt I made for Judi

I recently ran across this reflection by Mark Vernon about the nature of friendships and this seemed a good opportunity to share it. He starts with Aristotle's take on friendship, much of which I bet you will find rings true in your own friendships:

"Friendship, he proposed, is at the very least a relationship of goodwill between individuals who reciprocate that goodwill...He looked around him and saw three broad groupings of relationships people called friendship. The first group are friends primarily because they are useful to each other – like the friendship between an employee and a boss, or a doctor and a patient, or a politician and an ally; they share goodwill because they get something out of the relationship. The second group are friends primarily because some pleasure is enjoyed by being together; it may be the football, the shopping, the gossip or sexual intimacy, but the friendship thrives insofar, and possibly only insofar, as the thing that gives the pleasure continues to exist between them. Aristotle noted that these first two groups are therefore like each other because if you take the utility or the pleasure away, then the chances are the friendship will fade.

This, though, is not true of the third group. These are people who love each other because of who they are in themselves. It may be their depth of character, their innate goodness, their intensity of passion or their simple joie de vivre, but once established on such a basis these friendships are ones that tend to last. Undoubtedly much will be given and much taken too but the friendship itself is independent of external factors and immensely more valuable than the friendships that fall into the first two groups."

My friendship with Judi definitely fell into that last category. It was our mutual interest of quilting that initially brought us together. It was something a bit deeper that found me giving up my own direction temporarily to support her dream of starting a hand-dyed fabric business. When I moved away, the friendship did not wane but pointed up how much we needed each other beyond the sharing of quilting interests.

"Personally, I think that Aristotle is on to something in his belief that the closest kind of friendship is only possible with a handful of individuals, such is the investment of time and self that it takes."

Capturing a bittersweet celebration

So we worked at it, finding ways to keep connected, finding ways to support each other. In 2000, my birthday fell a little over a month after I lost my husband. I was pretty alone at that time, but Judi vowed I would not spend my birthday alone. She made what was for her a physically dodgy 5 hour drive to be with me on that day, taking me to dinner, making me laugh, comforting me as I poured out my heart and my tears. Friends hold each other, physically and emotionally, providing shelter if only briefly.

Yes, there were "selfies" even back in 2006

And six years later when I gathered myself up to move to Idaho, and was planning the "last time" things I wanted to do or visit before leaving, Judi agreed to spend a weekend at the races with me at my husband's and my favorite track, Road America. Granted, she'd always been into motorcycles, but I deemed it such a favor that I didn't have to take this walk down memory lane alone, but with my best and most understanding friend.

Judi Kane, Rhonda Harris, Mary Stori, & me, with Sherrie Spangler taking the pic

So I moved, and then a year later she moved out west too. We were still 5 hours apart but that beat the previous distance between Idaho and Wisconsin. When I'd visit, Judi generously shared her other friends, like in this chance convergence of former Wisconsinites and a new friend from her now home of Hood River. This gathering that Judi orchestrated led to my making fairly deep and lasting friendships with these powerfully talented ladies.

Judi's first solo exhibit

With our moves, our personal artistic journeys grew. Our styles and subject matter were different so we were never in competition with each other per se, yet our support of each other sometimes took on that feel, but in a good-natured positive way. We pushed each other and were happy for each others' successes, willing to join the analysis during the failures to see what we could learn.

Judi & me along Lake Pend Oreille

As I mentioned, our mutual interests as friends went beyond just quilting. We both had a love for nature, for the mountains and lakes and rivers, for getting out in them, drinking them in, photographing them. We didn't share exactly the same religious beliefs but we did share an abiding spirituality and a trust that whatever happened was meant to be for good reason. We loved to drive through old neighborhoods admiring late 1800 houses or wander through beautiful gardens. We didn't always agree on things, which only expanded our thinking and made us grow closer. She was often the kick in the butt I needed. She told me I was the calming influence she needed.

On a road trip with our signature Bailey's

So is it any wonder, that when she faced her biggest challenge of all, fighting for her life, I'd drop everything to be at her side? We once took many road trips together, sharing laughs and Bailey's Irish Cream. I'd missed those extended times with her. Now we were off on our biggest road trip ever, to Mayo Clinic, and although we wished it was under better conditions, we treasured that opportunity to spend so much time together. I considered it a blessing to be able to give back some of what she'd given me through the years.

Little known side effects of radiation treatment

Those were some of the most difficult months I've lived through, keeping up with the rigorous schedule of doctor appointments, tests and treatments Judi required, and my caretaking duties at the end of each day. All while having to watch helplessly when she was in pain or reacting adversely to medication or had reached the end of her staying positive reserves. (Many more times difficult for her, of course.) And yet, it was not all gloom and doom. Judi had a great sense of humor and we found plenty to laugh at, including this unplanned juxtaposition with these pipes when we grabbed some lunch at a sidewalk cafe. Had to take a picture so she could see what I was laughing at, and she gleefully captioned it, "This is a rare side-effect of radiation treatment."

Judi & me waiting to get in for my birthday dinner

We got through those months, we thought with success, closer than ever and thankful for the time together. Before we left, my birthday rolled around, and once again, we could share it, albeit under bittersweet conditions, with a smile. Less than 4 months after getting home, she got the news that the cancer was back and had spread. A few months later, she was gone.

"Aristotle wrote: ‘The desire for friendship comes quickly. Friendship does not.’ The implication is that the best kinds of friendships are only possible between people who properly value it and who understand how many things from the personal to the political can compromise, undermine and destroy it. There is an art to friendship."

This was my friendship with Judi, a person that took me down paths I would not have traveled otherwise, who considered me part of the family, who worried about me and nagged at me, offered advice and taught me things...and yes, loved me. And I did all that back at her. This is the friendship I lost, that cannot be replaced because each friendship is unique. I miss her presence, but her influence on me lives on, her words of wisdom and prodding surface often, and I am grateful for that. I think we mastered the art to friendship.



Susan Sawatzky said...

What a lovely tribute to Judi and to you.


June said...

Thank you, sheila.

Living to work - working to live said...

This is a lovely story - a lovely tribute.

The Inside Stori said...

WOW!!! 7:00 AM and I've had my morning coffee, PLUS a happy and sad cry! It is a privilege to have known Judi and I'm honored to find myself pictured with you gals.....it's nice to remember such a happy occassion!

Connie Rose said...

Beautiful story, beautiful tribute. Judy was so lucky to have you as her BFF. And you're right, we only get one or two of those in our lifetimes. xo

Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Sheila, thanks for your update and for sharing your friendship with Judi. I remember that when I start following your blog she was very sick and you have been making her african quilt.
Thanks for your warm text and lovely pictures, they show that you were together in good and bad moments.
A great tribute.
Thanks again!

Chris said...

What a beautiful story. How wonderful to have had such a friend. I can tell that you miss her a lot.

Sherrie Spangler said...

What a great tribute. The part about the lunar eclipse gave me goose bumps (in a good way), and I can just picture the two of you howling at the moon. I can't believe it's been a year.

Pat said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Terry Grant said...

Just beautiful . We should all be so fortunate...

Michele Matucheski said...

You are lucky to have found such a dear friend. Thanks for sharing. It's tough to lose these special people in our lives. I still have long talks with a dear and departed friend ... Sigh! She's alive in your heart; and you in hers. They love us, too, even after they're gone.