My friend, C, died 2 weeks ago. Apparently, it was a peaceful end. She was 57 years old. She had an inoperable brain tumor. I am stunned by her death and am still trying to make sense of it. It has taken me 2 weeks to write this post. She was the most drop dead gorgeous, model thin, with exquisite long, shiny black hair, down to earth woman you would ever hope to meet. She could have been a super model and she had no idea how beautiful she was. She was a real “earth mama” and she loved getting her hands dirty, working on the land.
I met her in 1977 in a lovely English village called Broad Oak which was located 3 miles outside of Canterbury in Kent. She was 20 years old and I was 23. She had attended the University of Kent at Canterbury. We both ended up living at “The Farmhouse” which was an enormous house built in the 17th century. At one point, we had 26 people living there. From my perspective as a young American in England, it was the coolest place, ever. How I ended up living there is a completely different story. BTW, I also met my husband, Martin, there; 37 years later, we are still shackled together.
C hailed from Birmingham, an industrial town where the people always sound bored. The Birmingham accent is a strange one. Ozzy Osbourne is from Birmingham, specifically, Aston. Despite being born in such a grim place, C loved gardening and she spent the rest of her life growing organic stuff. When we were young and daredevilish, we picked apples and pears in the orchards in the Kentish countryside, running up 20 foot tall ladders to pick the Bramleys, a cooking apple.
Martin and I moved on from Broad Oak, living on an organic farming community in W. Wales for 5 years. C and her partner left Kent, moved to Wiltshire, had 2 children within a few years and farmed the small piece of land they had. We visited them in the early 80s. That was the last time I ever saw her. In the late 1980s, I returned to Chicago and Martin followed me the year after. He had some difficulty getting a visa to enter the US, due to his criminal past; possession of a small amount of a controlled substance. But, the US authorities decided to let him in, eventually.
Several decades passed and thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with C. She and her new partner were living in Portugal. She was still farming. They ran a organic smallholding as an “off the grid Bed and Breakfast” in a remote area with no mains power or water, and compost toilets. They grew all their own food on the premises which supplied the ingredients for meals for the guests. They also grew olives, making their own olive oil. They had been there for 10 years. She championed many worthy causes. I had every intention of going to visit her. The pictures of the place were idyllic. I was so happy to see that she was thriving. Her children were grown by now.
A mutual friend of ours, from our Broad Oak days, saw C on a regular basis when she came to England to sell her produce. They had just been together and he sent me pictures of her. Shortly afterwards, I received a message from him that C was very ill and her prognosis was not good. All of this happened in less than a year.
What can you say about a person who does good work all her life and then dies tragically young? It just doesn’t seem fair, but then no one ever said life was fair. Although C has not been in my life for most of the past 35 years, I feel such a sadness with her passing. I would have so loved to have visited her in Portugal. Now, I will never have that chance. Perhaps it is knowing that I never got to say goodbye. Perhaps it is having to face the fact that I have lived more of my life than I have left to live.
Have you lost a friend lately that really affected you? I would love to read your comments.
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