July 30, 2019
“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
― Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Story Girl
We first met while standing in line in downtown Portland to see the 1983 film, “The Big Chill.” Perfect first encounter for two youthful baby boomers, both of us in our early 30s. Big hair, shoulder pads, traveling the upward spiral in our chosen careers. It was an instant connection. So much of life ahead. Our 30s, 40s, 50s, and now 60s.
Our second meeting was in Eugene, Oregon. My boyfriend at the time was in law school there. One of Judie’s best friends was my boyfriend’s good friend. So, my boyfriend says to me, “We’re going white water rafting with Judie, Bryan (Judie’s husband) and Jeff.” OMG. I was frantic thinking Judie was this macho Pacific Northwest outdoors chick. A tough, risk taking adventurer. The opposite of me. That perception would soon change.
We arrived at Jeff’s house, me wearing a denim sun dress with a bright red sweater. Judie entered the room in a summer ensemble, green and brown top and shorts complimenting her lithe figure, and matching earrings. Judie says to me, “I love your red sweater.” My reply, “Thanks. I’m a winter.” Judie perked up and said, “I’m an autumn.” Thus, began a beautiful and colorful friendship of nearly 40 years.
Who remembers colors from the 1980s?
Given that Judie and I both refused to go white water rafting—way too dangerous for us city slickers–it was suggested that instead we rent roller blades and tool around Eugene. Judie and I looked at each other, shook our heads and at the same time say, “Nope.” What did transpire was a picnic on the bank of the McKenzie River. The men folk swam in the river while Judie and I stayed on shore and shared our visions for working with women and children. Empowering them to live their best lives, long before Oprah made that a meme.
Since Judie’s terminal diagnosis in February, due to pancreatic cancer that had already metastasized, I have had a jumble of memories surface. All good. I can’t say that about all of my friends, but I can about Judie. This reminds me of my wedding in 1995.
A videographer was roaming the reception, inviting people to share memories of Doug and myself. The photog asked Judie, “What does Kate mean to you?” Judie looked confused while starting to twirl a lock of hair, a life-long habit that meant she was thinking. Finally, she replied, very slowly, “I don’t think Kate has ever been mean to me.” We’ve had a lot of good laughs about that, even in these past few weeks as her life force was waning.
This same videographer mistook Judie’s 3-year old son for Tyler, my 5-year old stepson. The photog asked Blake, “How do you like Kate being your new stepmom?” Blake started to twirl a lock of his hair while looking mighty confused.
When it came time for the toast, we asked Bryan, Judie’s husband and Blake’s dad, to share a personal message about us. Which he did, and quite beautifully so. When it came time for the toast, Bryan lifted his glass and declared boldly, “Here’s to Kate and Dave.” Remember my boyfriend in Eugene? That was Dave.
Memories are what keep us connected, especially during times of loss. Memories are what allow us to move forward with life, even during times of sadness and sorrow. Memories are to be treasured.
Judie, I will forever remember you. Thank you for co-creating so many beautiful memories with me and my family, and so many mutual friends. “Family by choice” we used to say, and it’s indeed true. I’ve lost a beloved family member. A true sister of my soul. Now my forever anam cara. Judie, when we meet again, I wonder what movie will be showing in heaven? I’ll get the popcorn. You get the milk duds. And yet another memory surfaces. “Guilty pleasures,” she used to say.