Last week, I lost a friend.
Her name was Julie Vicknair and I’d met her at a party almost 50 years ago.
That night, I saw her standing across the room and, to my then 15-year-old eyes, she was brown-eyed perfection in a white sweater. Scared’s not the right word, but it took me two songs to gather the courage to ask her to dance.
We hit it off and, shortly thereafter, began dating.
We were soon “steadies” and dated all through high school. We even double dated a number of times with Julie’s best friend, Linda, and Linda’s boyfriend Jimmy. Like most teenage couples, we had our ups and downs, but always got back together.
During those years, I also became part of Julie’s circle of friends, many of whom I see to this day. Those years are among my best memories as the fun we had seemed almost constant and Julie was just about the center of my universe.
After high school, though, I went off to college and, even though we thought that we’d make it through the absence, it wasn’t to be. We slowly drifted apart and, eventually, broke up. Mutually understood. No hurt feelings. No harsh words. We remained good friends and made a point of seeing each other whenever I was in New Orleans.
One such time, just before my senior year in college, Julie invited me to a party at her house and, there, we spent the evening talking, laughing and catching up on everything. Later, I somehow ended up talking with Julie’s best friend, Linda, and when I saw she didn’t have a ride home, I offered to take her.
We’ve been married for 42 years now and those years would never have happened had I not first met Julie at that long-ago party.
Last Saturday, Julie died of cancer. For whatever reason, that damned disease took hold in her and held on in spite of everything her doctors threw at it. She fought for months, but that monster won out and Linda and I lost a gentle, considerate, and dear friend. The kind the world needs to be gaining, not losing.
Thinking back, whenever Linda and I would get together with Julie, we found that the conversation never drifted into any troubles she might be having, nor did it wander into the faults of others. Most of what she had to say was either self-deprecating or dealt with humorous situations we’d been through during our high school — and later — years.
Eventually, we’d drift into our children and grandchildren. When that happened, it was beyond obvious as to where Julie’s heart and soul spent most of their time. Children were everything to her.
I once read a column wherein the writer opined that, were we serious about tackling the troubles of the world, we’d simply turn the U.N. building upside down, dump all of the riff-raff and assorted layabouts currently occupying it, and replace every one of them with mothers and grandmothers from around the world.
Wars would become a thing of the past as would foot-dragging or delays in getting kids whatever they needed.
Education? Hunger? Bad water? Clothes? Disease? These women would hear about it and, then, the “movers and shakers” would catch an almighty earful until they did something about it all.
Julie would’ve been a charter and very vocal leader of that group.
I couldn’t be there, but my wife was in New Orleans on Julie’s last day. She and others were visiting Julie. They stayed for hours. They talked with her. They held her. They laughed. They cried. At times, they got so loud that the hospice people wanted to run them out, but Julie was happy and wouldn’t let them. She said that (and, here, I quote): “It’s much better than a wake.”
Julie died peacefully early the next morning. Years too soon. And I’m going to miss her. More than I think I know.
So, now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’m going to find some very old bourbon and spend a little quiet time remembering one of the finest souls I’ve had the privilege of knowing.
I think she’d like that.
Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org