In both the books I write and like to read, family, friends and community are integral to the romance between the hero and heroine. While I don’t ‘write from life,’ like most writers, my own experiences to some extent shape the stories I tell and that’s especially true when it comes to friendship.
I’ve been blessed to forge friendships with women at many different life stages. These are women from whom I’ve learned, shared laughter and, sometimes, tears.
Almost two weeks ago, I lost a friend. Sitting by her bed, holding her hand and listening to her labored breathing, battling a disease that would ultimately win, I thought about how her friendship enriched my life – and my writing.
Katie was my first English friend.
With my own mother an ocean and half a continent away, she was a source of reassurance in the early days with the English Rose, giving welcome advice on everything from cuddles (essential) to colic (troublesome but it would pass).
She was also the person towards whom the English Rose took her first unsupported steps – a memory I cherish in my heart.
Katie and I talked about books and art and music. About home decorating, jewelry and clothes.
About how to make a Victoria sponge cake, warm milk and serve a proper high tea.
And we also talked about making the best of life’s ups and downs, bravely facing the unknown with fortitude and faith.
When I lost my mother, sudden, tragic and shocking, Katie offered quiet comfort and practical help.
As I said goodbye to Katie – a goodbye both unwelcome and too soon – I remembered all of these things.
And I remembered something else too. Although I’ve lost her and that loss will forever leave a gaping hole in my heart, there’s a part of Katie in many of the fictional characters I write.
These are the characters who exemplify the true meaning of friendship, unselfish and unstinting in their devotion and generosity to others.
Characters sometimes overlooked because they don’t seek center stage, but who are nevertheless essential in both books and life to keep the story – and the journey – moving forward.
And characters who teach important lessons not only about living but dying too, with grace, dignity and courage.
Rest in peace, my friend. You are loved and missed, always.