Illustration: Whispers by South African artist Lucille Raad

For Sudie
By Andie Holman

WE HAD CONFLICTING memories of when we first met. She remembered the pool, a little too deep for small people; we had to stay near the steps. I remember sitting on the sidewalk for the Regiment’s monthly procession, her father in front, impressive in his uniform. Devon and I shared a passion for Shaun Cassidy, pickles and animals, a dislike of authority, and dreams of being old enough to do whatever we pleased. Soon we were able to breathe in the shallow end, on our tiptoes, careful not to ruffle the surface. Our exasperated mothers would call and whistle for us but we certainly couldn’t hear them, our heads underwater trying to touch the bottom of the deep end, eyes red and stinging, open in the clear chlorinated water.

Her mother could really paint. My mother kept her company with her own canvas, and copious amounts of wine. We used to watch the two of them and we could feel their love for each other, spilling out in the ringing laughter, the rude jokes, the bellowing of John Denver tunes until the wee hours of the night. Their mothers had been best friends too and like Devon and me they had shared their lives together. They had gone to school together, travelled together, participated in weddings, funerals, births, and raising kids along with scores of puppies and kittens. They would drop everything and run if one of them was in need.

Sudie had the most spectacular Christmas tree each year, always dressed in at least a hundred strands of light, with all the family decorations displayed; each one lovingly unwrapped time and time again. She would throw a Christmas Eve party that was the highlight of the season, always guaranteed to be full of raucous laughter, dancing and the obligatory carol singing. Then, after a time, the raunchy songs would start; the shoes well kicked into the corner at this point, and the kids would come in and twirl Sudie around while all the time she laughed the loudest.

I helped decorate Sudie’s tree about a month ago. She and Devon were flying in from Boston on a medical plane, coming home because the doctors could do no more for her. Devon’s husband, her brother and I unwrapped the family treasures and hung them in full glory for Sudie to see when she got home. After a long night’s wait, the ambulance holding my best friend and her mother finally pulled up the driveway. She looked up from the gurney, tiny and frail, then laughed and waved at us all. Typical Sudie- always up for a party.

My mother read Sudie’s eulogy on December 18th to an overflowing church. Her voice was strong and true until the end where she had to gently step back and catch herself for the final paragraph. It was so touching, so beautiful, as she told of how Sudie departed this world in style. There was a spectacular rainbow arching across the sky, ending sure enough, in front of Sudie’s house, minutes after she died. Our friends, the boys who once danced with Sudie, laid her to rest with brave faces. I don’t know who I feel worse for- my best friend, who has lost her mother, or my mother, who has lost her best friend.

In the final days and hours of life, what do you suppose happens? I imagine many reflections, heart swelling with the bittersweet joy of leaving. So full of longing, threatening to burst with the conflict; wanting to shrug off this physical body full of pain and disease, yet knowing in doing so, the ones that love you are surely going to suffer...

With a final sigh, spirit steps out and carries the love back to the pool where everyone can have a little taste. It has been enriched tremendously, now Sudie laughs and dances with her angels. Sip it sweetly and enjoy my friends. Savour it. Sudie’s love is an astonishing and intoxicating brew.++

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