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By Ellen Pearlman

The article

Dancing the Blues Away

I have been feeling blue lately. A very dear friend of mine has lung cancer. It was discovered a year ago and she’s had chemo, radiation and surgery to address it. She was healing from the treatments and had gotten strong again when she discovered that the cancer is back. She is about to start immunotherapy and possibly chemo along with it.

Her struggle has brought back all the pain of losing my best friend Madeleine 13 years ago. It’s not that there haven’t been other losses in the last 13 years, but I had allowed myself to get really close to this dear friend. We’ve known each other for close to 45 years, but the friendship has truly blossomed in the last 10 years after we retired and got to spend more time with each other.

She’s a person with a great appetite for life. She sparkles. She shines. We both have houses in the Hamptons and love sitting in the sun, listening to the birds, enjoying nature and the bounty that sun, water and earth provide. She’s well grounded in her life. And now this. She is about to undergo more devastating treatments, right before the summer. Her favorite season. It breaks my heart.

I feel guilty too for my sadness. What right do I have to be down? My health is good. I’m not enduring one brutal cancer treatment after another. But even as I tell myself that my heart feels heavy. I don’t want to share my sorrow with my friend. She doesn’t need to hear about how her crisis is affecting me. I was saddened too to realize that I didn’t have anyone to share my sorrow with who offered me the same comfort that I used to get from Madeleine. She was my soul mate and her comfort brought me solace.

So I decided to write to the two-dozen women I interviewed for Friendship Dialogues to find out if they have had a particularly hard time dealing with the illness and potential loss of another friend after having suffered the wrenching loss of their best friend. I got back a flood of email messages, so many wise and stirring notes from these women that offered me enormous comfort. I realized that in my desire to share my story about Madeleine and to tell the stories of other women who have also lost their female best friends has led me to create a friendship support group. These women that I have not met have been so giving of their time, support and advice. The email dialogue that we created together these last few days has been uplifting for me and, I believe, to all of them as well.

So I want to thank them for their wisdom and generosity. And once again I encourage you to read the stories at Friendship Dialogues and get to know these amazing women who have endured a deep and painful loss but have learned to live with it and keep going.

I’ll close this post with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, from Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. She inspires me to accept loss as part of life even if it leaves me limping along.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”





The article

Elephants Mourn Friends Too

At the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand two female elephants bonded. Now I’m not an expert on elephants and whether or not they have the ability to mourn, but the park recently posted an article about Jokia, a female elephant who stood guard over her friend Mae Perm’s body and wouldn’t let the park workers take her body after she died. When they finally succeeded in removing Mae Perm’s body, the park reported that Jokia cried and moaned and refused food, choosing to seek out her best friend instead.

I understand how she felt. Elephants are known for their family connections so why not grieve a best friend? Now the park is trying to help Jokia make a new friend. They walked her around the park so she could meet new elephants. The plan seems to be working. This week they reported she met Yai Bua, an old lady elephant who was a recent addition to the park. The two used their trunks to touch and hug each other. And at night, Yai Bua stood guard over the younger Jokia. The park is hoping the two will bond. I’m hoping they will become friends too, but I can’t help wonder if elephants can replace a lost best friend? You know the saying, an elephant never forgets, and while as a human I do forget, I also know I’ll never find a replacement for my best friend Madeleine.



The article

Dear Roberta, Simmie and Linda

I read today of Harriet Shorr’s passing at the age of 76. I didn’t know Harriet, a painter and teacher, but I read that she was known for her realistic still-life paintings, writing and poetry. She was beloved by her husband, two daughters, three grandchildren and her brother, but what was unusual in her New Times Times obituary was that it said she was “remembered with pride and love by her childhood friends Roberta, Simmie and Linda.”

I read the NYT obituaries often, but I can’t recall that much notice being paid to the friends of the deceased before. Somehow I feel that public recognition of their grief was a step in the right direction. It’s not only family that suffer gravely from the loss of a beloved person, the friends are mourning too. While I don’t know Harriet’s friends and I don’t know anything about their friendship with Harriet, I do know that their grief was noted in her obituary and, therefore, they must have played a significant role in her life. So I would like to offer condolences to the friends and family of Harriet Shorr from Friendship Dialogues and me. I’d also love to hear their friendship story — I’m sure they have wonderful memories.