I was almost asleep when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the voice on the other end of the line until he identified himself. C. apologized for calling so late but said he knew I’d want to know. My friend J. and her son M. were killed today in a car car crash in Utah. Two of her other children are in critical condition. Neither her husband or her second son were with them when it happened.
I stayed calm until after I’d called Joe to let him know, and then dissolved into sobs. The thought of this family without their mother is heart-breaking. And my friend and I haven’t been in touch since she left Texas to return to Utah, but she’s the kind of friend that we could go 20 years and never talk or see each other, but as soon as we did run into each other again it would be like no time had passed at all.
She wasn’t happy here in Texas. Things had been difficult for them, and I know that she and her family were very glad to return to Utah. I honestly haven’t thought of her very often, and when I did, I hoped that the reason she hadn’t been in contact with me was because she was happy and doing well there. Just before they moved, I took her to lunch one day and we said our farewells. She couldn’t give me the phone number and address because she didn’t have them handy–it was a very sudden, unexpected move–but promised she’d get in touch with me. I’d known her long enough to know that she might, but she probably wouldn’t. And that was okay. We all do what we need to do.
But in the 11 years or so that I knew her while she and her family were living here, they were true friends to me and Joe. Their oldest daughter, now in critical condition in a hospital, was a newborn when we moved here from Utah. They were the first family to welcome us at church, the first to befriend us. And I can’t say there were never any bumpy times, because there were. But there was never any question as to the firm love and friendship that existed between our families.
J. had a unique talent for putting her foot thoroughly and completely into her mouth. She also was very blunt when she spoke. The combination could be offputting to some, but I found it endearing most of the time. And our paths ended up taking such different directions, too. But you know, when I lost some friends about the time that I decided to stop trying to be what I wasn’t and start being what I was, she never questioned it. She always loved me unconditionally. I wanted to change my name to Faith? Fine. I don’t think she ever called me Ginny again after that. I didn’t like country crafty stuff anymore? That’s great. She went to the Picasso show with me at the Kimbell Art Museum instead.
For years we spent every Christmas Eve and every Easter Sunday with their family. It was a tradition that each of us cherished. I treasure the time I spent with them. The children are so loving and endearing.
I never thought, when I said goodbye to her that day, that it was the last time I’d see her on this earth. That really makes me sad. The thought of her husband’s grief, and her daughters, and her other son, and their trying to have to make their way without her, breaks my heart. If you’re the praying sort, please keep their family in your prayers. Their oldest daughter R. must be about 14 or 15, and their other daughter, E., is several years younger. Both these girls are in the hospital.
I just don’t even know what to say. I’m so stunned that words are failing me right now.
UPDATE: The son I was originally told was not with her was in fact in the car, and is in critical condition at the hospital. He has about a 50-50 chance of making it; there is a lot of pressure on his brain. The youngest daughter, E., is not going to survive. The oldest daughter, R., is already improving and will survive.
While Joe was on the phone this morning, talking with a friend out here who is tentatively planning on going out there with him, I was going through my boxes of photographs. I have so many of them, both when they were at our house and when we were at theirs. It’s a comfort even amid the pain to see the children when they were babies, when they were hunting for Easter eggs, when they were jumping on the bed or opening Christmas presents. It was good to find one of myself with J. How can you not talk with someone for six or seven months, and not miss them? I just knew she was there, knew she loved me, knew that when we did talk again it would be like no time had passed at all.
It’s been a sober reminder to me to tell my loved ones that I do love them. To take photographs, because while it’s true that the pictures in your heart are the best, it’s nice to have those moments captured on paper as well.