Our friend Claire. Our friendship did not belong to me, but I loved being in her light– in her bubble of color and energy and spirit–and we will miss her. Claire’s innumerable friends love her fiercely all over the world. She has a smart, devoted, hilarious husband JJ with an uncanny ability to make people laugh. Claire has a six year old son named Oliver and a ten year old son named Evan, who are the most perfect combination of their parents’ personalities, coupled with some solid character attributes of their own. They are curious and kind, thoughtful and sensitive, outdoorsy and creative. And they just lost their mom this week, our friend Claire, JJ’s wife Claire, Jane’s daughter Claire, Mathew’s sister Claire, her nieces’ Aunt Claire, and the list goes on, multiplying exponentially the people who love her.
When my cousin Michelle passed away from pediatric leukemia, I was only 12. The phone call which told us she passed away was my first memory of my dad crying. Ever. When Claire passed away from metastatic breast cancer, I was only 44. There are never enough years built up in one’s storage locker of strength for the loss of a friend– no matter what age. But I didn’t cry at first when receiving the final news, although sad, my larger emotion was relief about the pain she would no longer be in. Or the waiting to die, which she hated, accepted, and modeled for the rest of us with more grace and dignity than I will ever know.
I came to know Claire ten years ago from a book club through our mutual friend Denise who had grown up with JJ here in town. There was her fabulous voice, accented and firm– powerful and poised; I could have listened to her for hours tell stories. When her boys started a seasonal program at Loon back in December, I jumped on board with the app she used to send video chats to other people. I thought it would be a good way for me to show her videos of the boys skiing, which I did approximately only 3 times. The rest of her videos I keep replaying on my phone because her voice makes me smile, regardless of the funny or sad emotion on the other end. She and JJ have demonstrated fortitude and courage and love for all of us— helping each of us–their family and friends– through this process.
When leaving their house that last time, JJ hugged me tight, held my hands, and asked, “Did you say your goodbye?” Claire and I had been saying our goodbyes a little bit each day for the last year, every time I sat on her bed to chat or made some vegetarian soup with ginger because it had healing qualities, or showed her videos of the boys skiing, or sipped some revel stoke roasted pecan whiskey on her deck which felt like a treehouse. She knew how we loved her every step of the way. And now, we will focus on those boys– all of them– even the oldest one, the poster boy of devoted husband and loving partner.
The unfairness of it all. But Claire wouldn’t want us to just be angry at the world. She would want us to do something for someone else instead, so that’s what we are going to do. We will hike with her kids in the woods so our dogs can run together. We will visit JJ on that sweet deck every season there isn’t feet of snow piled high. We will ski with Evan and Ollie so that they know the joy of mountain life that sucked their mom into staying here in Lincoln Woodstock when she could have returned home to England. Well, JJ had something to do with that too, but beyond her magnetism– she was a force of nature we will miss so much here on earth.
Our friend Claire. Her last two years were harder than anyone deserves. Hard on her, her husband, her boys, and everyone who loves them. Claire’s 10 years in my 44 weren’t enough, yet her presence doesn’t go away simply because she is no longer living . Her vibrant beauty, wit, enthusiasm for life, remarkable positivity, and clarity of the world around her compel those of us still here to do the same. There is so much of her in those little boys that she was still able to share with them every day though her time was unfairly cut short. With every batch of information Claire gained at her doctor’s appointments over the years, she would say something like, “Ok, now that we know that, here is what we are going to do to move forward.” So that’s what we will do. Big hugs going out to the Bujeaud and Evans families and to everyone who loves them.