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.