Saying Goodbye to Gale

This is something I should have written almost a year ago when my friend Gale first passed. I didn’t for several reasons. One was that the pain was still too fresh, it took me months after her death to not cry uncontrollably every time I thought about her, which was often.  Even now a year later I am crying as I write.

The other reason was that I felt guilty and selfish to announce my sadness to the world when her family’s loss was so great – what was my grief compared to theirs? Compared to the the man that she had been married to since they were teenagers, to the two grown sons and a teenage daughter who was like her shadow?

But this Saturday morning I attended a tree-planting ceremony in her honor that made all my sadness fresh again.  After her husband sang a song a Capella that left everyone in tears he asked if anyone wanted to say a few words.  And I wanted to.  But a fear of public speaking and the hesitation I mentioned before kept me mute.   But there is SO much I want to say about Gale, and the wonderful woman she was and what her friendship meant to me.  I want her to hear it, but I don’t know where to say it other then here, so here it is.

Gale was a force of nature. A fireball of energy and laughter with a razor sharp tongue. She had a way of seeing  through  anyone and anything straight to the essence of the matter.  She was NEVER afraid to speak her mind and it got her into trouble on many an occasion!  But more than anything, Gale’s true gift was to see the best in people and make them think that they were someone incredibly special. To see yourself through Gales eyes was to see a person that you wanted to be but rarely felt you were.

There has never been, and I doubt will ever be anyone in my life who thought I was as amazing as Gale did. And I’m not just talking about now that I have achieved  many of the goals in life that were just theoretical when I met her at the age of 13.  I mean THEN, when I don’t believe many other people saw what she did through the hair flipping, gum chewing insecure girl that I was!

She was my first boss at my first job working for Weleda in the accounting department. I worked for a few hours after school and summers, I  made $3.33 an hour and loved every minute.   Gale was funny and loud and welcoming and we’ve been friends ever since.   Somehow the 20 year age difference was a complete non issue, though in retrospect there was great value to having had an “older” friend, wise in so many ways who would pop in and out of my life but was always there if I needed her. I wish I could be the kind of friend to her teenage daughter that she was to me – there would be such a poetic  symmetry to that.  And I want to, both because she is an amazing young woman and also because it keeps Gale’s memory alive for me, but I lack Gale’s easygoing social nature.  I’m not as dynamic and fun and and the appeal to a teenage girl of being my friend is lost on me.

Over the 25+ years of our friendship, her outspoken admiration for me was a huge well of encouragement in all my endeavors.  As if perhaps in her eyes I could do anything, there was a possibility that I truly could.

I realized later that even while I felt like I was the only person she thought so highly of, of course that was not true – that was her gift.  She made people feel there was something indelibly special about everyone she held dear.   And if she made a mere friend feel that way I can’t even imagine how her family felt being in her orbit and then suddenly not.

In her last weeks I visited with her in hospice a few times and I didn’t tell her how much her friendship meant to me.. because to do so meant acknowledging to her, to myself and everyone else in the room that it was really happening, that we were  losing her. So instead I visited and pretended like nothing out of the ordinary was happening,  a sad, stupid wasted opportunity. But I hope that my presence there told her what I wasn’t able to find the words to say.

Two years before she got sick she helped my best friend Alexis plan my baby shower and she gave me a beautiful gift that is so painfully ironic now.  An ethereal  mobile of angels in rainbow colors that I hung immediately above Jasper’s changing table.

Ever since he could speak, Jasper has asked me about the mobile and I have always told him that mommy’s friend Gale gave it to him as a special gift. When he asked again just days after hear death and I told him that Mommy’s friend Gale had given him the beautiful angels and that now she was an angel too, watching over him always.

Goodbye Gale.  You are missed so very much.

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Amber Ellen says:

Beautifully written, this moved me to tears. I am so sorry about your loss. Gale sounds like an amazing woman, I am sure she knows how much you mean to her. ~Big hugs~

jbhat says:

What beautiful words, and what a lovely keepsake for you and for Jasper. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about your wonderful, inspirational friend. I’m sorry you’ve lost her.

xo

jbhat

vikki says:

Reading that was so moving Ariana :(
I’m sure Gale knew how much you loved and appreciated her friendship without the words needing to be said out aloud. Bless you xo

Nina says:

I’m so sorry for your loss. Everyone one deals with death in their own time. Don’t beat yourself up for not telling her what her friendship meant to you. If she could read people as easily as you say, she knew!:)

Jennifer says:

We all grieve in our own way and at our own pace. I’m glad you finally got the chance to say the things you wanted to say. You were lucky to have Gale in your life. Thanks for sharing your memories of her.

Jen says:

Lovely. Gale was so proud of the mom you’ve become.