The women in this photo, along with other members of my book club, always pop into my mind when I think of this passage from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love : “In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
When Mama was sick, one of them told me she used to scream as loud as she could in the shower when her own mother was dying and that it was therapeutic. It was. One of them made a chicken tortilla soup for me to take to Atlanta in Mama’s final days–it was one of the last things she enjoyed eating. Two of them shared stories of their own father’s deaths and explained to me that it was okay to feel whatever the hell emotion I was going to feel at any given moment. They were right. They brought meals. They donated generously to my marathon I ran for lung cancer research and our orphanage fundraiser. They all pitched in to have mine and my sister’s house cleaned when we were traveling to Atlanta constantly. They pampered me with a gift certificate to have a pedicure. They sent cards. They called me. They told me they loved me. Friendship–these women get it and they do it well.
Six months after Mama died, I had to have surgery which I never anticipated needing in my lifetime. My body was a testament to how grief and stress can wreak havoc on you when you’re not paying attention. I didn’t want this group of friends to find out I was even going to be out of commission for a couple of weeks, because I knew they couldn’t help themselves–they would insist on doing something and I felt guilty as they had done too much already. They found out though and to no surprise, they rallied again. Food, cards, flowers, hugs….healing is easy when you are surrounded by these women.
They came to our home for book club the other night. It was a smaller crowd as summer is an impossibly hard time of year to synchronize schedules. In celebration of Jones and to pay tribute to the book we had just finished reading, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, which takes place in Ethiopia, I spent the day preparing an Ethiopian feast for them. We dined on Doro Wat, Gomen, Shiro, Mesir Wat, Kik Alicha, and of course, Injera. Having the benefit of just eaten all these delicacies in Ethiopia, none of it met up to my expectations, but it’s one of the few ways I can feel as if I’m paying tribute to them, in my own small way.
If I am the protagonist in the story of my own life, these women are the characters you would discuss in book club after reading this book and say, “Kim, Jay, Carol, Val, Reina,, Laura, Mary Beth, Mary Margaret, Jen, Anne, Julie, or Jennifer was my favorite character. I wanted her to jump out of the pages of the book and be my friend! NP was so incredibly fortunate to have them in her life.” I couldn’t agree more.