August is traditionally a tough month for planet Earth and people in general. A lot of friends have shared how many struggles they are having, there are earthquakes and hurricanes and things just feel askew. Internally and externally, many of us feel it. Hang on, hold on…endure..(I say, and tell myself)..everything moves…
I lost another dear friend last week and it has been heavy in my heart. Judy Oseransky became my friend when I first attended Kahala Elementary School in Honolulu, entering as a 9 year old who had just moved from the 17th floor of an apartment building on the edge of Harlem in New York City. Can you imagine: I was ecstatic to join the barefoot tropical world!
I met Judy in the Fourth grade and we became close friends. She was hysterically funny, off the wall, adventurous, silly, sarcastic and totally accepting of me as a newcomer to the Hawaiian culture. Once on the playground early on, a tough girl came up to me and said, “Eh – You like beef?” Having no idea that in Pidgin English that this meant: “Hey – do you want to fight with me?”, I naively replied, “Well, yes, I like beef, and I also like chicken and sometimes fish…why, do you like beef?”
Judy embraced my nerdy transition with laughter, so that I could laugh at myself, too, and not freak out too much about tough girls asking me to fight. We were close friends through the Sixth grade and then, along with several other kids from our class, we went to Punahou School, a private school that we carpooled to. Coming into Seventh Grade at Punahou was kind of like moving from NYC to Hawaii as a 9 year old. Except add in adolescence: Yuck. The first day of school, I wore a short muu-muu thing (for anyone that doesn’t know, this is a very lame dress that would likely be covered in loud colored floral themes..I’m sure mine was pink and yellow with ruffles everywhere.). I wore wire rim gold metal glasses. I was chubby and tall. I don’t think I cared or noticed any of this until I stood waiting for homeroom the first day at Punahou.
Everyone else seemed to be in another magazine..another dimension. My female classmates had somehow figured out that they needed to wear cute pants and chic tops, with smart sweaters pulled around their shoulders. Their hair looked like Farrah Fawcett who was just becoming the coolest thing, with flared wings of locks flipping out from the sides. My hair was white from the sun and jagged, ragged from too much time spent in the salty sea. Instantly, I became massively self-conscious. I don’t think I ever wore a short flowery ruffly muu-muu again, after my first day at Punahou.
To make a long, painful story short, I was overwhelmed by the changes happening in me and in this new, sophisticated school. Judy was also freaking out, and to manage it all, she began to meet me at my classroom doors, to be able to walk to the next classes together, or to be together for recess or lunch. A cool person in Math class whispered to me, seeing her peeking through the window, “There’s your shadow, Cheryl…tee hee.”
I was too immature and insecure to manage it well. My 12 year old Self cruelly cut off the deep friendship I had with Judy. Stopped talking to her…wouldn’t have lunch with her..no more sleepovers at our houses..no more hanging out…it is probably one of the meanest things I’ve ever done to anyone (except once when I was 7 at summer camp I gave a girl my booger to eat!!! Yes, she did!! If I knew her name, I’d write an apology). And Judy suffered at the loss of our friendship.
Fast forward to about 7 years ago. Somehow Cheryl has sprouted a tiny bit of conscience. As I occasionally looked back on my life, I thought of Judy. How horrid I had been. How lovely she was. How impossible it is to take something back. I was able to contact her via Facebook or email, I can’t remember which, and wrote a sincere and deeply heartfelt apology for all of the hurt I knew I had caused her. I didn’t ask for forgiveness – I knew I didn’t deserve that. I just wanted her to know that she had been innocent. She had done nothing to me ever, for what I had done to her. It was purely my own insecurity that had driven our friendship apart.
Incredibly, Judy wrote immediately. I probably have the email exchanges that followed but can’t find them right now. What I do remember is the first line: “When I got your email, I sobbed. I guess I’ve been waiting and hoping for this for 30 years…”
More incredibly, Judy, who had an open heart, forgave me. We wrote back and forth, working out the pain and reestablishing a friendship that wove in and out of our lives over the last seven years, in between my having babies and her in job transitions, parental aging issues and more. It was a privilege and a blessing to have her acceptance and friendship again.
I learned something huge. Well, many things. But one important lesson to share, because it’s a theme for me right now. If I feel something deep in my — heart or conscience or whatever that place is, deep within, that speaks the real truth to me..about an action I could make, or a hand I could extend to a friend, or some shit I could clean up that I’ve created at some point in the past or present: Do it now. Don’t wait. Opportunities pass and the windows close, that once were open. This is especially important in relation to others.
Judy died sometime in the last couple of weeks, unexpectedly and suddenly, her sister wrote on Facebook. My heart literally dropped in my chest. We had been in touch fairly recently. She had some serious surgery and her mother had been in critical care and was recovering. I shared that we were going off the grid. She called me right before we moved. I was bustling around in a grocery store, so we had a brief but delightful conversation. We both wrote later that it was amazing to feel so connected after all these years and all we had been through.
My heart aches for her family, as I write these words. My heart aches for the close call that I could have NOT written her 7 years ago, and just let the shit lay there. I’m so grateful I reached out. Selfishly, it cleansed something from my internal world. Fortunately, our renewed friendship mattered to Judy. I will remember her always, with fondness, once the grief passes. She had a unique character: Both bold and shy, sarcastic and pure-hearted, she was a bundle of love. Judy – I don’t know how you died. But in honor of you, I will continue to try to bring more loving kindness to the world. I’ll try to clean up my shit as soon as I can, when I make mistakes and step on people’s toes, intentionally or not. You were a friend of friends – faithful and forgiving, loving and accepting. May I learn to be a better friend to all, and blessing on your Soul for the kindness of your friendship with me.
May we all extend and share, peace, love, happiness, health, safety and goodness…to everyone…