In search of story

November 29.22: Coping, but barely


January 1983 was a low point in my life. I turned 40 and was starting over. I took a deep breath, went back to grad school, got an assistantship, and was assigned a cubicle.

My cubicle mate had different hours and we started leaving notes for each other. Give an English major a scrap of lined paper and stand back. Thus began our friendship.

A few years later, she developed a brain tumor which was initially misdiagnosed. It was a terrible fight she fought, but she survived. Not only that, but she earned her PhD at the same time.

That was Sandy. Sandra Littleton Uetz.

Almost thirty years later came the second tumor. She fought again but this time it was different.

I have lost a dear friend.

I don’t think I’m the only one who wonders.  When, at some low point in life, we find ourselves sharing a desk with a stranger who becomes a dear friend, what is that? Do we call it the grace of God, the luck of the Irish, random chance, some cosmic plan, serendipity?

And when the dear friend is at her low point, and we can’t do anything, what do we call it?

She had great teaching ideas, baked a mean cherry pie, was seriously conversant with Pogo and Krazy Kat and Mark Twain, collected buttons and handkerchiefs, loved books, the St. Louis Cardinals, cats, little dogs, birds, and, most deeply, her family. She was a woman of faith and fear — to live with the possibility of recurring tumors is to be just that.

One December Sandy and I drove to Valparaiso, where the square around the old courthouse had been developed into little shops. Christmas carols — REAL Christmas carols — were piped outside. We wallowed in happy nostalgia. It was one of our best hobnobbings. I promise to remember it.

One of her favorite poems, and perhaps her most favorite, is this, by Robert Frost:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


May the angels lead you, Sandy.



24 thoughts on “November 29.22: Coping, but barely

  1. I’m sorry for your loss, Maureen. It was hard to hit ‘like,’but I do like your remembrances of such a good friend. It is always special to have a friend come in to your life at that perfect moment when you need a friend. On the other hand, when they leave, it is like they take part of your heart with them even though you know they are at peace and not suffering. Thank goodness for memories that allow a smile when you think about all the good times.

    • Thank you, Judy. You are exactly right, of course: we hold to those memories that bring a smile. The memories that bring tears will stay, of course, but we will reach for the happier ones. At our time of life, there are lots of tears and lots of smiles to remember.

  2. Maureen, I am so sorry for your loss. Right now the heartbreak is overwhelming, but in time all these wonderful memories will put a smile on your face and bring you peace. It sounds like your friend lived her life to the fullest….what a beautiful legacy.

  3. Thanks, Ginger. You are right that in time the happy memories take their rightful place next to and sometimes over the sad memories. Sandy would agree with you too.

  4. The last line of that poem is so lovely. Your friendship with Sandy was golden, wasn’t it? Those are so hard to come by. What a beautiful remembrance this is. I am so sorry, Maureen.

  5. This is a lovely tribute to your friend. I can’t answer for her tragic death, but I do believe that we’re all touched by Providence when friends appear just at the time we need them the most. She sounds like a wonderful person.

  6. What a lovely remembrance of your friend! I’m sad to learn of this loss.

  7. I am sorry for the loss of your friend. We meet people often in life. Some remain coworkers or acquaintances. Others become friends. Some become such good friends that we can’t imagine how our lives were before we met them. Ginger is probably right, but for now, it’s hard duty.

  8. Pingback: Flowers to Celebrate, Thank and Remember – Susan Rushton

  9. I’m thinking of you at this sad time. Don’t imagine you did nothing. She will have known your love and had the benefit of your insight, and will have often been comforted by both.

  10. I’m so sorry. The connection is still there through your wonderful tribute and every time you think of her. My hope is that loved ones never leave us because they are a part of us through our histories and memories that live on.

    • Thanks, Tamara. It’s a big loss for me, but I like to think as you do: she remains with me in our shared memories. I kind of expect to feel her reading over my shoulder the next time I re-read “Huckleberry Finn.”

  11. Sending my sincerest heartfelt condolences.

  12. I’m sorry for your painful loss.
    Whether by random chance or cosmic plan, you had an amazing 40 year friendship to look back on and celebrate. Your friend will live in your heart forever.

  13. What a beautiful tribute to a lovely friend. I’m sorry for your loss!

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