In the mail today was an envelope containing an obvious Christmas card from my friends Walt and Beth. I noticed immediately that the usual return address label listed only “Walt,” and I hesitated before opening it. Beth had been in remission for breast cancer, and it had returned and spread. I had spoken to her by phone once since and she was her usual upbeat self. Life got in the way, so I thought about, yet did not act upon a follow up call. When I did open up the envelope I saw the usual photo of a smiling Beth and Walt and their dog with a Santa hat on. And then I read the accompanying festive newsletter. In the first paragraph it said, “She left for heaven in March of 2018.” And I wept, because in my chosen media-free life I had never even heard.
It was a sobering lesson in how precious our time is here and how we get removed from closeness by getting wrapped up in life. I met Beth at work 35 years ago, and we became fast friends. Through the years we separated professionally yet kept in touch, raising our families and getting together occasionally. We always, always laughed when we were together. When she was first diagnosed, she immediately jumped into action, active in a foundation for a cure. We got together for one of her chemo treatments and made a lunch party out of it. Later, when she was in remission, we took a day trip to an Erie, Pennsylvania nature center to promote a nature book I was working on. We had a wonderful day out, and on the way home took the wrong entrance to the thruway and were 30 miles down the road, chatting away before we figured out we were headed in the wrong direction. I believe that “laugh out loud moment” lasted for a half hour, and I’m breaking our confidential agreement here that we would never tell anyone to share the humor. That was the last time I saw her. We were in touch afterward via email for her to review the manuscript of that yet to be published book.
My heart feels her absence this night and it is bittersweet. I’m sad for Walt, her two children and me who miss her; she was indeed an Angel on Earth. At the same time, I am confident that she is having a blast with God and the heavenly Angels she so believed in. And her spirit is nagging me to get that nature book out to my readers. She was just that fun, radiant type. She likely did not expect me to dedicate that book to her, but of course I will. In the early morning hours before I learned about Beth, I was contemplating my life and writing theme for the upcoming year. Two thousand-nineteen will stand for Making Time and Memories, dedicated to the old-fashioned values of gratitude, putting family first and serving others with the focus of accumulating memories, not stuff, and spending time in person, not online. These are what are most important to me.
I am sharing other sentiments from Walt’s newsletter here to offer his wisdom and hope for what others may be going through, “One step at a time always moving forward choosing happiness. I have learned that my heart has an amazing capacity to love and I truly am not alone…Choose happiness-I have!”
Good Flight, and Happy New Journey, Beth!
And Merry Christmas and Happy, Prosperous New Year to All.