The beloved and Nancy behind a “flight” of Rhone wines, San Francisco, CA.
This isn’t a picture of a bunch of wine glasses. Â
It isn’t a picture of my beloved, either, though that’s her, directly across from me. Â
What this is is the only recent picture I have of my friend Nancy — the woman in the polka dot dress — taken the last night I saw her: May 30, 2009.Â
She was in town and we had dinner at this swanky restaurant Â to celebrate; we all went to the NCLR fundraiser afterward, where she danced and danced and reveled in re-found love. I had become friends with her partner over twenty years ago, and we were all fused together for good by an incident which changed our lives: the attempted murder of her partner by a stranger who’d entered their apartment. The woman who was Nancy’s partner then, the one who defied all odds to survive that attack, has since become one of my very dearest friends, a member of my family, the extended, justÂ happens to notÂ live in my house branch. Â
Twenty years passed since then. Â They broke up; Nancy’s life had taken her to Spain for a time, and then to the East Coast for a professorship (Spanish Language & Literature). Â She married a man and gave birth to two daughters whom she adored, now 8 and 13. Then a little over a year ago her husband surprised her with the news that he wanted to end the marriage. Â Nancy worked on healing, and this spring, quite by serendipity, she re-found her love of twenty years ago, my dear friend and our children’s 3rd favorite bedtime story reader. Â
It is virtually impossible to convey in any number of words what their re-kindled love meant to each of their souls. Â Suffice to say that they were experiencing the zenith of something extremely rare: the mixture of new love and old, discovery and recovery, relief at the notion that they would no longer be searching to be really, truly seen, and exhilaration at the prospect of the future together that their past prepared them for.
This night — in the picture above — this dinner, she was radiant. When I hugged her hello after so many years (I’d seen her last at a Modern Languages Association conference, back when I was still in grad school), her body and her energy felt so, so familiar. Â Lit from within. Â She is one of the most vital, filled-with life people I’ve met, right there next to my beloved in this regard. They both positively pulsate with energy. Â “Irrepressable” and “ebullient” are adjectives many, many people come up with to describe Nancy.Â
In the morning of June 17 — while on the phone with my dear friend — she died. Her heart stopped. Â No evidence of heart disease; no evidence of any cause of death. She simply, suddenly, stopped being alive. Â Evidently this can actually happen. Why? There is no why. It just happens.
Today is her hometown memorial, in Alfred, New York. Â I can’t be there, but I can put this image here, this image which is the closest I can get to Nancy now.
En paz descante.Â