Diana had a great laugh. When something struck her as funny, her entire soul shook.
I met her in 1979 at the YMCA. We ran together for several years before she moved away to follow her dreams. She was a biologist and a chemist who couldn’t find satisfying work in Erie.
We kept in touch, but I had a family to raise and Diane had a world to see.
I was elated when she returned to Erie in her late forties. We’d get together occasionally for a walk or run. Humble, quiet, and kind, Diane never boasted about her running, her work, her business acumen. She was the sort of friend who sat in the background until you needed her. Then she was there.
During one of our many runs together, I noticed something wasn’t quite right, and she admitted she might be having some memory problems. Eventually, she asked me for help.
You might think having a friend you can trust is one of the greatest gifts in life. I disagree. I think having a friend who trusts you is the best gift of all. If you’ve had someone trust you with their life, you understand. You ask yourself, how you deserve such a friend.
I helped her when I could.
There were doctor and psychologist appointments to make; magazine orders to cancel (darn those telemarketers!); checkbooks to balance; creditors to contact; bank tellers to meet with (God bless those girls!). Her accountant helped fill out her taxes. Her financial advisor helped locate her investments. (There truly are good people in this world.)
When a person has dementia or Alzheimer’s, the number of hurdles they must jump is staggering. How confused and scared and alone they feel when the simplest of life’s tasks become difficult.
Yet, there are good times, too. Occasions when those around them see a glimpse of the person they used to be.
The last glimpse I had of Diane’s true spirit came when I asked her to meet me downtown during my lunch hour. I’d made her an appointment at the social security office. Of course, she wasn’t there at the time I told her. (What was I thinking?) Fearing we’d miss the appointment, I hurried up and down State Street searching for her. Finally, I found her calmly sitting on a bench.
She said, “I didn’t know where to go, but I knew you’d find me.”
Some of the best moments in life hide in other people’s faith in us.
We hurried in. I had a folder tucked beneath my arm with all her information. Anxiously, I approached the receptionist. “This is my friend Diane. She has a little memory problem, so I helped her fill out her forms. Her social security appointment is at noon. We have the required documentation.”
I presented the folder. The woman glanced at us, leaned forward, and said to me, “Lady, you’re at the bank.”
My gaze wandered past the teller windows, and I turned toward Diane. “Maybe you better find someone else to help you.”
“Maybe I better.” She burst into a gut-wrenching laugh—the old Diane, back in a flash.
I loved Diane and she loved me right back. Never once did she ask to replace me.
As time passed, she grew anxious and forgetful. If you’ve helped someone with a memory problem, you know the tasks are daunting. I couldn’t continue helping her. I worked full time and had a family of my own. Then Angela came along.
Angela married Diane’s brother, David, who lived kitty-corner behind Diane. Angela quit her job, and she and David spent the rest of Diane’s life comforting and caring for her. What I love most was that they built her a back porch where she could sit and gaze out into the yard. Diane loved the outdoors.
The Lord called Diane home this week. She’ll be spending Christmas with her beloved mother, Nelly, and her little brother, Bobby.
Life goes on without her, but a little piece of her lives on in all of us who knew and loved her.
Thanks, Diane, for the hikes at the peninsula, long runs, bowling league, jaunts to the races, for the long conversations, being there for me when I needed you, and for all the great times. Mostly, thank you for loving me just the way I was. There’s nothing better in a friendship.
Now, fly, fly, fly, with effortless abandon—like you used to do when you were young.
We’ll all catch you later down the road.