Yesterday I received a package of photos of my friend Clarissa, who died of cancer in November. The box sat there all day. I was not going to open it with kids clamoring all over it/me. After I put them to bed, I locked myself in our bedroom and with little kid scissors, began cutting the tape off the large box.
It was strange. I almost felt like I was opening her grave, but she doesn’t have a grave, and I knew she wasn’t in the box. I felt a little shaky.
Clarissa and I were friends since 1992 or 3 when I moved to the DC area to try my hand at radio. We worked together at the Unistar Radio Network and stayed in touch over the years. I always felt kind of lucky and honored that she liked me. She was a private person and didn’t let a lot of people in.
She moved a couple of times since we worked together but most recently found herself back in the DC area, in Northern Virginia.
We stayed in close touch via e-mail and phone but had not physically seen each other in years when we decided, in 2009 to meet halfway in W. Virginia and have a girly night. We stayed in a hotel, ate dinner(Indian food), walked around, looked in art galleries. We stayed up late, talking. She didn’t appear ill at all, she walked faster than I did. We knew her body was wracked with cancer. They weren’t trying to cure it anymore, just buying time.
If there is someone you are wishing to see, make the time. I’m so glad we did this. I can’t even explain how glad I am we did this. To have seen her. Hugged her. Driven around with her in her old VW with the windows down, hot wind whipping through our hair. It means everything.
Clarissa was devoutly unsentimental, but she was an exceptionally good person. She worked hard. She did the right thing. She was a devoted daughter, tenderly caring for her elderly mother in the years before her mom died. Neither she nor her beloved mother ever suspected at the time that Clarissa would follow so closely behind her.
Looking around our home, there are so many reminders of her. Little mementos. A picture on our mantel of two hands forming themselves into a heart. A wall-hanging in my kitchen with a poem. More love. A book she sent me on “civility,” a subtle hint about swearing too much on my blog. Don’t get me wrong, she could swear like a sailor, but she’d not do it in writing! She read my blog every single day. She loved it. No higher an honor. No better validation than Clarissa Douglas approving of your writing. She was an incredible writer. She was a radio anchor for decades, her voice a soothing gorgeous alto.
I miss her most, when I think of something I want to share with her; a book, a movie, (she loved books and movies) and then realize I can’t.
Speaking of e-mail, when I’m in my address book, if I happen to hit the first letter of her last name all the “D’s” pop up and hers in first on the list. My stomach sinks seeing her name there, reminding me she’s not here.
She was a beautiful woman. I was so blessed to be her friend.
Today I’m feeling a little tender about her. HT has the morning off and I’m spending it in my office, just being with it, allowing the feelings. Clarissa would be like, “Fine, take the morning, but no wallowing. Get on with it. You’re not the first person to have a friend die.”
But she never had a friend like her.