Sarah and I didn’t like each other very much when we first met as freshmen in college. I thought she was loud. I’m certain she thought I was mean. And we were competing for the same attention — such is the foolish nonsense of 18-year-old girls. Throughout college, we traveled the same paths regularly. We had the same major, took the same classes, had many of the same friends, hung out at the same frat, and pledged the same sorority (briefly for her.)
One of the things that I remembered this past week is such a small part of our overlapping time and space on this earth. I was taking an introductory drawing class and had missed one too many classes. The sadistic professor required me to make up the class, but in a higher level course. I remember nervously taking my seat and seeing Sarah about 3 seats away. Then, one of my classmates walked through the circle of drawing desks, climbed up on the small stage, and took off her clothes. Swearing never to miss another class again, I kept my head down and drew what Prof. Meany told me to draw. And then at the end, deepening my torment, we were told to stand up and walk around to look at everyone’s work. Of course the advanced artists around me had created works that were so much better than anything I had managed to scratch out. And then I got to Sarah’s. Unlike the rest of the class, Sarah, who always did things her way, had drawn just the model’s hand. In exquisite detail. It was extraordinary.
Our paths crossed again when we both landed in Boston. Missing that affiliation thing from my college days, I decided to join the Junior League. The first year in the JL is considered the provisional year and has sort of a pledge class feel to it. I was excited to meet new people and will never forget standing in line to get a drink at the first cocktail party and hearing my name. Shouted out in a LOUD voice. Oh yes, you guessed it. It was Sarah, dressed impeccably as usual. We saw each other a lot during those days — at meetings, events, functions. We always caught up on the latest in our lives and exchanged gossip about our former classmates. As life happens, we then saw each other less. I think I missed her entire first pregnancy, which we both thought was insane when we realized how much time had passed since we last saw each other. And then we lost touch completely.
Enter Facebook. Sarah was one of the first people to friend me and we quickly caught up. She always commented on my posts and I revelled in her approval and snarky comments. She often sent me little personal messages with things she thought I’d like. The last one she sent me was titled “Snuggling on the Beach” and was a video of a woman sitting on a beach in a pile of elephant seals. She wrote “This struck me as something you NEED to see. Just amazing - I’m so jealous!”
We learned that we had many, many similar interests — including that our favorite word is “pamplemousse,” that we both LOVE summer with a ferocity few people understand, that we have a keen interest in recycling and plastic trash, that we love the ocean, and that we both wanted a Chihuly to hang in our homes.
It was during the early days of reconnecting with her that I learned about her battle with ovarian cancer. I remember when she started her blog, The Carcinista. I read every single post — and especially her final post, “Taking the Reins” — with the same sort of awe I had when I saw her beautifully drawn hand in art class. I’ve re-read them in the past two weeks and am even more amazed at her unflinching approach to life … and death. Sarah died on May 3. This morning I went to her memorial service.
This is my 41st post in 41 days and is the first thing I’m checking off that list. I’m dedicating my completion of all of these things to Sarah, who has kicked my ass off the couch more times than I can count in the last few years, has shown me the importance of “making memories,” and has taught me how to live. Out loud.