A while back, my partner and I were talking about our fear of friends dying. We are at the age when it starts to become more likely. We’ve already lost some, but perhaps because they were a little bit older than us, the idea of peer mortality seemed less real. When I received the message my friend Marguerite passed away last month, I was flattened.
As the years go by, our friends – those with whom we share a deep connection – become, as my friend, Rebecca said, “part of our bones.” They often know us better than our family members, and bring out our best selves, in different ways. When we feel close to people, there are bound to be disagreements and qualities in one another that drives us nuts. That comes with letting down your guard, and revealing who you are, warts and all. We learn to accept some things and make adjustments. These annoyances are nothing if you can count on someone to be in your corner, make you feel loved, and laugh.
When Marguerite, aka Spanky, moved to LA, we saw each other maybe every couple of years, the last time in July 2018, but it was as if no time had passed. We sat outside on a warm summer night, laughing, catching up, and talking about life, past and present, and our hopes and aspirations for the future. Sometimes we can pick up where we left off, sometimes not. Our lives change with spouses, children, work, and the path of discovering who we are. Some friendships, even those that felt close at one point, run their course and become estranged. The death of a friendship carries its own set of grief, but we get through it, comforted by the love we share with other people and knowing that maybe one day, that relationship will rebloom and that if it doesn’t we did what we could to keep it alive. The death of a friend is final. We carry their energy with us, but it is one-sided…we are the only beneficiary. There is no longer anything we can give to them to show how much they matter to us in return.
Spanky was one of my first friends in San Francisco. We met at Café Claude, where her girlfriend, Elizabeth, was the chef, a few days after I moved here. Within a few minutes, we realized how much we had in common – she was 19 days older than me, both Scorpios, from New York and hella weird. We had an instant connection. I was – strange as this may sound – sort of dating a guy who worked with Elizabeth, and in disbelief that I was “straight,” they invited me to a lesbian club with them that night. A few months later, she was the second person I came out to. She was just like, “Look at you. You’re wearing aviators, a black leather jacket and ride a motorcycle, of course, you’re a dyke.”
Spanky had her demons – who doesn’t – yet, I think she found a way to turn her struggles into strengths. She was a great listener, and I appreciated that she never passed judgment, not on me, not on others. She had empathy, not just sympathy because she understood that life can really suck, and you never know what’s going with people no matter how well they seem to be doing on the outside. She was hysterical; even now, I laugh about some of the things she did and said decades ago. As our mutual friend Leslie reminded me recently, “her laughter was infectious.” She was brilliantly creative. More than anything, Marguerite was warm and kind, and we all could use more of that in our lives, especially now. Over 28 years, with numerous girlfriends/partners, jobs, businesses, struggles, and triumphs, she was always the person I met in January 1992, who got who I was right away, made me feel welcome in San Francisco, and helped me become who I am today. I feel privileged to have had such a dear friend.
I want to believe that Marguerite knew that she was loved by so many. I hope she knew how important she was to me, but I can’t be sure. So I’ve been thinking about the other friends in my life who I dearly cherish and am reminded that I need to make efforts to show, not just tell them, that they matter to me. We can’t go around thinking that we need to always be at our best with people because we might lose them one day; we are humans with our own moods, and timing is a tricky thing. Yet we can try to be better, be more sensitive and considerate, and realize that sometimes we’re going to fail. Failures become a success when we take responsibility and learn. Saying sorry is an act of great strength. It is also a gift because it lets people know that they matter to you.
So, don’t forget to remind those you love how much they matter because love is the best feeling, whether you are on the giving or receiving end. It makes this fucked up world a much more bearable place to inhabit. Losing someone does not make that love go away; enduring love gives comfort. Even if you haven’t talked to friends for a while, knowing that they are still roaming the planet is reassuring. To think that they’re gone, or will be one day, makes the world seem like a lesser place. But we can still keep our love for those lost alive by remembering how they made us better people and that even if they are gone, they are still part of our bones.