Thursday, July 1, 2010

Goodbye to a Dear Friend

Yesterday, when the phone rang, I didn’t recognize the number and let it go to voicemail. I immediately picked up the message and returned the call to learn that a very dear friend was ill. As my eyes swelled with tears, I knew instantly what I had to do. I started making phone calls. Lined up a place to stay. Secured use of a friend’s car. Packed. Fed the cats. Within a few short hours I was on the road. Destination: Ottawa.

I arrived at the Ottawa Hospital – General Campus, around 6:00 p.m. to learn that my dear friend Merneith had passed away just a couple of hours before. The news of her death, as the news of her illness just a few hours earlier, was devastating.

Merneith came into my life in 2001, when I was new to the public service and the Canada Student Loans Program. I felt an instant bond with Merneith, who was warm and generous. She had a way of making me feel anchored in a city that I had called home for less than two years, and where I had no family. When I was sick she would make me a Hot Toddy, and my cold would disappear. At work she’d often say, “Marcus, come here — I have a little treat for you but don’t tell anyone,” and it would be her wonderful roti. When I opened my e-mail in the morning there was often a note from Merneith letting me know that I was in her prayers.

At a time when I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, Merneith encouraged me to follow my heart. She came to the first exhibition of my artwork in Ottawa, smiles and congratulations in hand. She encouraged. She loved. When I needed a friend to talk to, she was there. When I was down and out, unsure of where I was headed, she encouraged me — despite my lack of faith — to trust in God. She was a woman of faith who believed in God and His word, who trusted in the Lord. She was a phenomenal woman.

It’s hard to speak of Merneith in the past tense. I can still see her generous smile and hear her laugh. While we stopped working together many years ago, we never lost each other. We shared the same birthday — and maybe that’s why there was always a special bond between us. This next birthday will not be the same without her.

In times like these there’s a poem, by Mary Elizabeth Frye, that provides some comfort, and which reads as follows:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

I miss you, Merneith. May you be at peace and know that you are loved. Thank you for being my friend for I know, since you have been a part of my life, that I have been touched by an angel.


1 comment:

  1. That is beautiful, M. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I am very grateful you had the gift of her friendship and that she was a part of your life, just as you are such a gift in my life. Love, H-A