A Tribute to My Friend

By Rose Ann Sinay

My cell phone rang, but I ignored it. We were moving, and I had a room full of belongings to separate, pack or trash. Trying to distance emotional connections to “things” was hard for me. Somehow, I could attach a good memory or a special person with each of my possessions. I didn’t want to give up my links to my past. Frustrated and cranky, I didn’t want to talk “nice” to anyone.

Finally, with six boxes safely taped shut and placed in my car, I called it quits. Any longer and I might be tempted to go through those containers one more time, and besides, I had a phone call to return.

I sank into my chair and scrolled through the phone screen with all its unopened messages. A notification informed me that I had a new voice mail, but the box was full. I needed to delete; there was no more room (story of my life). It wasn’t much of a threat since I never listened to the recordings. It was easier to just return the call. The messages sat frozen in time.

I promptly deleted several old messages. Then I saw the one from Sandy S. dated five months earlier. I stopped, my heart dropped and tears filled my eyes. Sandy S., my dear friend, a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is pal. I had the tendency to sugar coat the uncomfortable and complain about it later. Sandy, on the other hand, didn’t mince words and didn’t tolerate my occasional whining. “Let it go,” she’d insist – and I did.

I like to think I made her laugh and look at life in a less black and white way. “The gray area is always more interesting,” I told her. I made her listen to my proud grandmother prattle and look at baby pictures until she couldn’t take it anymore. But, she was the one that helped me through the excruciatingly long heart surgery of my youngest granddaughter. She never offered useless platitudes or meaningless promises. She was just there. It was what I needed.

As writers, we critiqued each others work, and when Sandy made a comment, I listened. Likewise, when I made a suggestion, she valued my input. We helped each other to become better listeners, better storytellers and better writers. Our friendship was based on trust and respect, and despite our opposite personalities, we really liked each other.

I stared at the number. Hearing her voice again would be strange, hard, emotional. I finally clicked on her name and put the phone to my ear. I listened to Sandy’s words. It was nothing important, she’d said. She’d read a great book; seen a cheesy action movie; asked how our visit up north had been; and wanted to meet for lunch. She missed me – not sappy, not sentimental – just matter of fact. I played it over and over as if hearing her voice would bring her back.

When my friend learned that she had cancer, she was surprised more than anything. There was no drama, no “why me?” moments. She took action – flying to Chicago, her second home, for a second opinion. She accepted the final diagnosis, but she never lost hope.

She dared me to dance around the disease. She talked about her cancer as a condition of being. Unlike her gray hair, she couldn’t rinse it away and neither could I. There was a list of what she would do if she kicked the malignancy and a list of what she needed to do if she didn’t. “It is what it is,” she said.

Sandy stayed in Chicago in her downtown condo close to restaurants, stores and (her favorite) the library. She walked more in a day then I did in a week. She woke to her beautiful view of Lake Michigan and enjoyed the convenience of being in the city. And then, of course, there was the close proximity to a good hospital.

She regretted that there might not be time to do the items on her bucket list. One of her biggest wishes was a trip to Ireland – a trip I can’t imagine taking by myself, never mind while battling a terrible disease. But Sandy realized it was now or never. She checked that item off her list. Of course, she did. It was Sandy.

Both of us had books in progress. When we got stuck and couldn’t move forward, we would make up final chapters, silly over-the top endings in the hopes something would break our respective writer’s block. The silliness was difficult for her, but she did it well. If nothing else we blew off some frustration, and as Sandy put it, we could move on.

Sandy has already written her final exit chapter, but I think she would have liked this short character profile I’ve written for her.

I arrived late as usual. As usual, she had been on time – early probably. She sat straight, no sign of a curve in her thin back and shoulders. Her long legs were primly crossed at the ankle. One hand was wrapped around a cup of hot tea. If the water had not been hot enough, she would have already sent it back. I could see the steam rising over her hand. There was a slight irritation on her face as her finger tapped the face of her watch.

“Sorry,” I said as I approached the table ready to offer a plethora of excuses.

She waved her hand at me. “Traffic? Doctor’s appointment? You stubbed your toe? Sit down. I have a new chapter.” Her smile reached her eyes and it lit up the entire room.

I miss my friend. I’d love to have one more conversation with her, one more lunch, one more story. There’s a void without her. She had the power to make an imprint so deep; I don’t need “something” to connect me with her. It just is. Rest in peace, Sandy.

About this writer

  • Rose Ann Sinay

    Rose Ann Sinay

    Rose Ann Sinay is a freelance writer newly relocated to Connecticut. She continues to write about moments worth remembering, graciously provided by family and friends.

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12 Responses to “A Tribute to My Friend”

  1. Joan Eaton says:

    Such a beautiful friend. Sort for your lost!

  2. Edie says:

    Beautiful heartfelt tribute Rose Ann.💕

  3. Kailey says:

    Wow… tears rolling down my face and I didn’t even know Sandy. But I am so appreciative of the tell-it-like-it-is friend she was to you… you needed that and something tells me she needed you too. Wonderfully written.

  4. Diane says:

    OH boy……tears flowing once again…but this time especially poignant .. We do have to have that chat and coffee. So sorry for your loss, but once again you ate able to ,oat importantly make us all feel. ❤️

  5. Tom Wolfe says:

    Rose Ann,

    Thanks for opening up and sharing memories of your friendship with Sandy. To outward appearances the two of you were as different as night and day. The inner connection seems to have brought out the best in both of you.

  6. Pam Martin says:

    Ro,
    This was a beautiful piece on a wonder, beautiful friendship. We all miss Sandy but I now know how hard it has been for you. You pictured Sandy as she was big as life but reserved as she really was. You were lucky to have her as a good friend to hang out with, while some of us had a friend and a person to critique our work. You had so much more of her. Because of that friendship you told us who Sandy was and what you are still going through after loosing her. Love to you for writing and sharing this wonderful person who touched so many people.

  7. Colleen Wenthen says:

    Beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend. So sorry for your loss.

  8. Erika Hoffman says:

    It’s hard to lose a friend. You know your grandparents and parents will go before you but when you lose your peer and friend, it’s hard to accept. And sometimes hard to write about.

  9. Linda O'Connell says:

    Lovely tribute. I lost a blog friend recently to cancer and although we saw each other only once, we had a close relationship. It hurts to say that final good-bye.

  10. Jack says:

    Rose,
    You did a wonderful job with this tribute. Sandy was a unique person. Sometimes gruff and to-the-point, but always caring. She contributed so much to our group. I hate that her wonderful character of Michael, the naughty imp of an angel, died with her. Great writing. I know this was hard for you.
    Jack

  11. Tammy Rohlf says:

    So sorry for your loss. It is never easy to lose a close friend but your tribute to her is beautiful.

  12. Mary Ann Crimi says:

    Thanks, Ro. Your lovely words speak for all of us who knew Sandy. We will keep her chair open at our writer’s table and her beautiful spirit in our hearts.

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