Learning How to Say Goodbye
Years ago, a friend made a request of me. She asked that I find a way to say goodbye to a dear long lost friend who had died of pancreatic cancer (it was Lan Laskowski to those who knew him.) At the time, I was caught off guard by Lan's death. We had not talked in years, after he had divorced, remarried and then withdrawn from our friendship (and other friendships as well, as I discovered later). That didn't take away from the time we had spent together, our close friendship and how he had played a powerful role believing in me as I became a singer/songwriter.
For several years, Lan, Maia (his wife then) and I would attend or hang out together at science fiction conventions (SF cons). I was new to cons, so he introduced me to many of his longtime friends and acquaintances. I still fondly recall a SF convention in Urbana-Champaign Illinois, where I played music all night while exchanging stories and songs with Graham Leathers (who later became a close friend). After the con, I pretty much passed out in the backseat of our car, as Lan and Maia safely drove us home through an intense Midwest snow storm to Michigan.
I always smile when I recall the two freshly baked cinnamon bread loaves he mailed me, when I was homesick for my Michigan friends after moving to Cincinnati. When I opened the heavily foiled packages, the heavenly smell of cinnamon bread wafted out into the kitchen. Lan's memory is forever linked to that homey fragrance.
Years later, I was in Germany on my honeymoon with Tom (now my ex-husband) when I read Debbie Ohi's blog posting telling of Lan's death. That night Tom held me as I wept.
How do you say goodbye to a long ago close friend? I didn't attend his funeral, and didn't have any friends who lived nearby who knew him. And reading the posts online about him, didn't ease my grief and sorrow.
Laura's request helped me figure out a way to say goodbye and honor the difference he made for me. So I decided to take on something that Lan did, that I admired. To adopt one of his habits, I guess.
Lan was a strong and solid friend, who listened well and paid attention. He unconditionally supported my efforts as my ability to write and perform songs grew and developed those first couple of years. (i.e. when my efforts were umm less than stellar.) He recognized what was important to me and let me in on his interests, joys and worries.
So I chose to begin treasuring my closer friendships, to consciously appreciate those friends and do my best to not take them for granted.
I've been walking that route for about 18 years now...and well I don't know if I've always been successful at consistently following through on my commitment to this particular practice. I do know that it's helped me remember and celebrate a wonderful and warm friend and friendship.