I guess writing this will help me through this time.
My treasured girlfriend Ethel Pochocki passed away December 1st surrounded by her wonderful family. That helps, just knowing that she was not alone, but Ethel said, just a month ago, "I'm not quite ready to go yet dear, I've got poems and books to write."
To know Ethel's tender sensitivity you must read some of her works. Rosebud and Red Flannel is considered a Maine classic and is immortalized in the Camden, Maine, Children's Book Garden, one of my favorite places to sit and read. Ethel also wrote A Penny for A Hundred, Attic Mice (chapbook), Maine Marmalade, The Blessing of the Beasts, Wildflower Tea, The Cabbage Moth and The Shamrock, The Gazebo (which she dedicated to me), A Writer's Garden (a fine book of poetry), The Misteltoe Girls & Other Christmas Stories, and oh so many more.
Her works often appear in poetry magazines, Cricket, The Christian Science Monitor, and other well respected publications.
Sometimes Ethel and I would get involved in a phone conversation and talk for hours. Even when I am here in California, those marathon calls occurred. True girlfriends. We talked about everything, but mostly about writing and gardening. Ethel wrote every day and encouraged me to do the same. She helped me work through my first children's picture book, The Little Green Island With the Little Red House, and she deftly prodded, chided, and laughed me through the painful rewrites.
I can still hear her voice, but I wonder how long it will stay in my memory? I can hear her laugh, her words, "Oh, good morning dear," her dry, dry wit, and her sense of just getting her creative work done no matter what.
I feel so guilty for not seeing her before she was struck down (I was "busy" on tour, working, etc.–all excuses that sicken me), but Jeff and I did get a chance to visit her in the hospital and sing happy birthday to her and share some cake. (Ethel and I have the same birth date)
Every year when our birthdays arrive, we exchange gifts–usually books. I hadn't known she was ill and had sent her a copy of Mary Oliver's newest collection of poetry. She loves Mary's work too. Her card arrived at home a week before our birthday. I put it on top of a pile of cards and told Jeff that I would save it to start my birthday with words from Ethel. Well, that didn't happen. The card was from her daughter who wanted to let me know that Ethel had a stroke and was in bad shape.
Well, I've gone on too long here, but it helps me to know that others will now know that she passed away as quietly as a gossamer milkweed seed caught by a gentle breeze.
Good bye, dear Ethel...will we meet again in a garden?