Remembering Linda

Certain people have a way of coming into your life exactly when you need them. They bring with them lessons you didn’t know you needed to learn to help you get from one chapter of your life to the next.

I am fortunate to be able to name a series of amazing women who have done just that. Some of these friendships have lasted but for a moment, and others, decades. In the case of Linda, it was the latter, which is why, when I heard of her passing, my first thought was that it would be hard to imagine a world without her.

When I think over my list of those amazing women influencers in my life, some I can’t even remember when I first met them. They just softly entered the scene and became a part of my life. But my first memory of Linda is vivid as though it happened yesterday. With a gentle smile, she had offered a kind word through an open window to a girl sitting in a car with a cast on her foot.

Little did I know then, what she would grow to mean to me, but from the start, she was someone I felt safe with.

She may have crossed over to whatever awaits us when our stories on earth end, but I’ve quickly realized that I needn’t have worried about living in a world without her. I see her everywhere.

I see her in the vibrant colors of pink, blue, and purple. They remind me of how she used her grey hair as a blank canvas to express her individuality. We would walk the crowded aisles at a Rusty Barn Sewing Expo and women would stop her just to say how much they loved her hair and wished they could to the same.

I see her in the drive thru lane at McDonald’s and can’t help but think how ordering whipped cream with a coffee frappe affects my glycemic index.

I see her amongst my sewing supplies. A framed cross-stitch she designed for me captures the mantra of my first beginnings in Theatre and of becoming a costumer. It reads, “The seam ripper is my friend.”

I see her in my kitchen. When I drink tea, I reach for the fine box she gave me that holds my Stash teabags. When I bake bread, I am reminded of a trick she taught me to keep bread warm from the oven once it’s on the dining table.

These mentioned memories pale in comparison to the ones I’ll remember every time I visit or drive past a Rubio’s, Kneader’s, Panera Bread, or a Starbucks. In these places we would meet and spend hours talking about anything and everything. As I went through a dark period of isolation, loss of identity, and grief, those moments with her were a burst of light which gave me hope that I would one day find out how to make my own light- while I walked through what seemed like an impossible tunnel to navigate.

During one of those visits, I sipped coffee as she told me from memory, a parable of a Chinese farmer:

A farmer gets a horse which soon runs away, and a neighbor says to the farmer, “That’s bad news.” The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

The horse comes back bringing another horse with him which you might say would be good news. The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it but is thrown and badly breaks his leg. “So sorry for the bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. Again, the farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared.

It’s a parable that reminds me not to get too upset or attached to what happens. Even what seems dark and upsetting at times can prove to be an opportunity when looked on in hindsight.

In my grieving for my loss of Linda, I kept hearing her say “it just is” and it forced me to look up this parable once again.

So, when I think of the women in my life who have influenced me with lessons they’ve taught me, I’d say the greatest one Linda taught me was how to be at peace in the most difficult of times. A peace that comes from being able to look at my world a bit differently by shifting perspective and saying, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

I had texted Linda days before she passed, unaware that it would be the last time we did so. How do I reconcile the missed opportunity to have said something more when I had the chance? Do I mourn the missed opportunity, or do I once again live within the lesson she taught me to shift my perspective- and say that our conversations are not over, but that she lives on in the decisions I make every day to pursue new avenues of joy and understanding?

Who can say what lies in wait for me to experience because of all the times, both happy and sad, she’s seen me through? But I know, because of our paths crossing, that I’ll continue to receive a gift of future memories full of learning, creativity, and humor.

Linda will not be forgotten. She may appear to have left, but she’s living still- within the hearts of those of us to whom she made a lasting difference.

This blog and website is dedicated to her memory.

Thanks Linda, for everything.

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