My friend Amy Robinson died last month and yesterday I attended her memorial service with a jam-packed gathering of her friends. I write “friends” rather than “those whose lives she touched” because it seems as if everyone there considered themselves to be Amy’s true friends, even if their initial connection was through her husband and family, her work, or her many other endeavors. That is a gift. You could say that Amy “had the gift of friendship” or you could say that Amy’s friendship was the gift she gave to each of us.
In the last several years, my main contact with Amy was through taking long walks up Asylum Street to Elizabeth Park. By the time we reached the park, we had caught up on whatever had happened recently in our lives; halfway around the long loop, we had covered the pleasures and frustrations of living with a retired (and well-loved) husband—the “venting” part of the exercise. The walk back home was devoted to concerns about our grown sons. I worried about safety (one son is a rock climber, the other an underwater cave diver). Amy worried about her sons’ relationships. Eventually, the eldest “boy” married his long-time love, and Amy was—“ecstatic” is the word that comes to mind—about it. She told me, “Now I have a daughter!” And then one of the last e-mails I got from Amy (because now we live on opposite coasts) was to tell me the great news that her younger son was marrying his wonderful girlfriend as well. All I can say is, I am so glad Amy knew before she died that both her offspring are well loved by good women and now she has two daughters.
I came away from the memorial resolving to spend more time with the people I love, like Amy did, and to call my friends rather than text them. I seldom use the phone any more but written words don’t compare with the sound of friends’ voices. Finally, today I read a graduation speech James Fallows gave at Ursinus College’s reunion in 2008, and this advice is what reminded me of Amy Robinson’s life and what I hope to change in mine:
“Get in the habit of being happy. We all have problems, which we can’t control; what we can control is how we look at them. Get in the habit of being excited. It’s a big world, with no excuse for being bored….Take every chance to tell your spouse, when you have one, and your children that you love them. When in doubt, phone your mom.”
If I could have one more walk-and-talk with Amy—and how I wish I could—I would tell her, “Don’t worry about your three men. You loved them well, they will miss you a lot, and they are going to be fine.”