A hole in the fabric of life


She walked into my life in April of 1991 because a mutual friend thought we might hit it off. We met that day for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. She was dressed in purple and I remember she wore a beautiful scarf. Lunch that day lasted over 4 hours as we talked and talked and talked. For each of us, it was the meeting of someone we felt we'd known forever. We talked our way through the next 21 years, though there were pauses that came when we had huge arguments and estrangements that lasted for up to 2 years. Still, even in those absences from each other, we remained connected and the door remained open for us to reconnect.

We talked through my divorce, through the beginning of her chronic illness. We talked through our joys and sorrows and disappointments. She celebrated my children's graduations and marriages. We laughed and we cried together. 

Seven years ago, I returned to Maine after a brief period of living away. Pauline and I had had one of our falling out periods while I was gone. Soon after I returned, she reached out to me. And the best and deepest period of our friendship began.

Over the last 7 years she and I became what she called "soul friends". She was always my best friend but the depth that we found these last few years makes that term, best friend, seem pale and almost inconsequential. She had been forced by her illness to retire from her practice as a therapist and gradually it stole more and more from her -- her mobility, her ability to care for herself -- but never her zest for life, her creativity, her generosity, her abundance. We found our way through some pretty fierce arguments and came out the other side with greater softness in ourselves and toward each other. We talked about everything, absolutely everything. And in the last couple of years we spoke often about death, about getting old, about faith and love and matters of the heart.

She had many friends and the most active social life imaginable for someone who is essentially housebound. Several people count her as best friend. Sometimes I resented those others, wanting to have her just for myself. But no one had the relationship we had, of soul friends.

She became very ill and was taken to the hospital a month ago. We had spoken the day before about the upcoming election and the debates. One of the last things she did was complete her absentee ballot for Obama and marriage equality. 

Yesterday, I and six others who loved her gathered at her bedside in the ICU. She was still and looked peaceful. And when we were all there, her heart rate slowed. The respirator was turned off. And quietly and peacefully she left us.

There will never be another like her. My life, and the world, are the poorer now that she is gone. She was one hell of great woman.

Pauline Salvucci -- May 30, 1943 - November 7, 2012 -- Rest in Peace

© Cheryl Fuller, 2016. All  rights reserved.