Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How Do You Say Good-bye?

How do you say good-bye to someone who has meant the world to you?

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?



Vee said...

What a tender, dear tribute... Make no room for the guilt that inevitably comes to us all when dear ones pass. Ethel was the kind of friend who wouldn't want you to waste a moment on that. I'm sorry to say that I do not know her work, but I am going to remedy that the next time the library is open.

Anonymous said...

What beautiful sentiments, Sharon, and what a wonderful friendship you had. Ethel sounds like a truly special person.

Little Acorn Learning said...

I'm so sorry Sharon. My daughters LOVE Cricket and she seems like she added so much beauty to our world. You are blessed to have had such a dear friend - they are few and far between.

Snap said...

Lovely tribute to your dear friend. I've made a list of her books and will go looking ... I do love children's books! You both were very lucky to share so much.

marcia said...

Hugs to you Sharon.
It's so hard to lose someone we love. May the memories you cherish be forever in your heart.

A very lovely tribute to a dear friend. I am going to read her books as well.

Love to you

Pondside said...

I'm so sorry to read that you've lost a beloved friend. How wonderful that she left so much behind to comfort you and everyone who reads her words.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Sharon ~ I am so sorry for your loss. What a lovely tribute to a true friend. She was living her life right up until the end.

Thank you for listing her books. I will see if our local library has them.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

You and Ethel were lucky to have each other, Sharon! You will always have her in your heart and memory. xxoo Nancy

Lili said...

Sharon, You wrote such beautiful sentiments here for your dear friend. The last two paragraphs were particularly touching. My deepest sympathy to you dear. Hugs, ~Lili

Angel Funk said...

Sharon I am so sorry for your loss. Your words here have touched me, what a wonderful testament to your friendship.

Donna@Conghaile Cottage said...

Oh Sharon, I am so sorry for the loss of your Dear Friend. She was such a Special Lady and she will be missed... This is a beautiful tribute to her and I'm sure she's looking down upon it and Smiling...
Hugs to you,

Fun Mama - Deanna said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that her memory will bring comfort to you.

Lori ann said...

Dear Sharon,
her memory lives on, and now with your tender words she'll continue to spread love and inspiration to everyone who reads her.
You are an amazing friend,
i hope you won't be sad.
with love,

Susan said...

I know what you're going through. I lost my daughter in May--Stage IV breast cancer. She was only 37 and I still haven't figured out how to say good bye. She introduced me to this blogging world and sharing with everyone has helped. I hope you find some comfort among friends. Love, Susan

Kat said...

It's so obvious by your lovely tribute that yours was a very special friendship. Sharon I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm so happy that you had such a friend. I recognize a good number Ethel's books. What a wonderful legacy she leaves behind.

Robin Larkspur said...

Sharon, you dont have to say good-bye, you know. She will always be with you in your memories, in your books, in your garden. And because she touched so many, and many more to come as new readers find her books, her voice will be strong and happy! You are a wonderful friend to write such beautiful words for her. Don't dwell on the "should have dones". She would not want you to!! Blessings to you, Sharon, and thank you for your moving and tender words. Robin.

Blondie's Journal said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Sharon. Losing someone that close is like losing a limb, you go on but it is not the same. But it does get easier and you have so many wonderful memories to comfort you.

I will be thinking of you.


Rebecca said...

I am so sorry, Sharon. My children and I love her books, especially Once Upon a Time Saints. (In fact we were just reading from it at lunch today.) You were blessed to have one another as friends.

Unknown said...

Dearest Sharon,
I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend and mentor Ethyl.
My heart was sad right along with you when I read your lovely tribute to her. She'll be with you in her words and in spirit.. always...
Big hug and lots of love,

MerrieSherrie said...

My heart goes out to you on the loss of your dear, sweet and talented friend. May your treasured memories come to comfort you. Keeping you in my prayers! Love, Sherry

Sheilagh said...

What a lovely tribute to your dear friend, my sympathy to you and Ethel's family.

I am sure you will meet in the most beautiful garden, sometime in the distance future.



Anonymous said...

I´m so sorry for Your loss!

But you will remember her voice for long yet. One of my best friends died almost 14 years ago and I can suddenly hear her voice popping up in my head :-) Telling me her opinions about things :-)

Take care!

kj said...

sharon, in all my life i hope i live and die with a friend like you, i hope i am a friend like ethel. this is the second time tonight that i have said it's a thin line. and that time makes things easier. my friend marion told me that in time you don't forget but it doesn't hurt so much to remember.

i can imagine not opening that letter was an added piece of the grief. it was supposed to be that way, that's all. your talented vibrant friend ethel knew totally well that her talented vibrant friend sharon was alway always there when it counted.

love to you sharon.

Zuzana said...

I am so very sorry to learn about the passing of your friend.. I can feel your pain...
What a beautiful tribute in her honour. Her memory will live forever in your heart and the heart of others.
I hope one day someone will write and think bot me as fondly, as then what more can one ask...?

Marigold Jam said...

I lost a good friend a while back too so can empathise with you. The living are always left with a sense of guilt that they might have done more but really we have done what we could and nothing can alter that. It is tru that time is a great healer and eventually we come to remember the lives of those who have passed without so much sadness and wishing and it will be the good times that remain in the memory. I am sure you will meet in a garden somewhere - she will come to you in a quiet moment I am sure. Take care and don't be too sad - it sounds as though your friend lived a good life and in as far as is possible had a "good" death too.


Mozart's Girl said...

Dearest Sharon, all I can say is that I'm sure that wherever Ethel is, she knows how much you loved her. It sings out from this moving tribute and it surely must have glowed in the same way throughout your friendship.My thoughts are with you, dear friend. Love & sending a huge hug, Rachel xoxo

From the Kitchen said...

Sharon: As a young girl and teenager, friends were fun and amusing. As an adult, I found new friends. Two of them have become very important to me. For almost 25 years, we've intertwined our lives. We share our joys and woes. I can't imagine losing them. My heart goes out to you in the loss of "whimsical, cheerful, philosophical" Ethel. I enjoyed reading about her and her books this morning. I wish you sweet memories of your dear friend.


Claudia said...

I am so sorry for your loss. You have written a lovely tribute to your friend. She seems to have been a lovely, talented, funny, giving friend.


Claus said...

It is hard to understand that one won't see them, hear them, touch them...ever again, isn't it? I can't quite comprehend that, which is exactly what I'm going through right now as well dear Sharon. The mother of my sister-in-law passed away yesterday from a second heart stroke. Families in Guatemala are very, very tight. We became very close when my brother married Silvia. She was taking care of my little niece - her first grand-daughter - and the bond among us all was stronger as ever. We all know that's our destiny, right? but it will never be something easy to swallow.
My thoughts are with you dear Sharon. I am sure you will meet again in the most beautiful garden.

Morwenna Hill said...

Dear Sharon,
I am so very sorry that your dear friend has passed away. Your beautiful post is a fitting tribute and I am sure Ethel would have deeply appreciated it. You and Ethel's family are in my thoughts
Morwenna xo

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry Sharon...but this is such a lovely tribute and ith everything she left behind, we'll have her forever...I have her "Writer's garden" and love it.

Anonymous said...

What lovely words to honor a lovely friend. I'm sorry for the loss of your dear friend.


Laura said...

It's never easy to say good-bye to ones that we love, is it?
I am so sorry to read about the loss of such a wonderful friend, writer, woman.
Know that my thoughts are with you during this difficult time.


Melody said...

I'm so sorry to read of the loss of your dear friend... Your lovely tribute to her makes me wish I too could have called her a friend. The people and animals whom we love, cherish and an adore ~ but lose all too soon; live on in our hearts and our memories.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sharon, What a wonderful tribute this posting is to someone who clearly was a very dear friend. I have always held the belief that the dead are only that when one ceases to talk about them. So, I think it positive and therapeutic to continue to talk of her and her remarkable work to those who may know her or those yet to discover her, then Ethel will truly be with you for ever.

Susan Branch said...

Oh Sharon I just read this, what a beautiful posting and memory for you, but sad. I'm so sorry. xoxo Sue

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

She sounds like a wonderful person and friend. I'm sorry to read of her passing. I will keep you and her family in my thoughts.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord said...

My sympathy to you. I was not aware of Ethel's work but have now reserved two of her books at the library. I look forward to reading them, sharing them, and exploring more of her work. Your post and your caring will help her live on.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Dear Sharon...what has happened to you is something I have dreaded and feared. My dearest friend and I stood at your counter in Hearts Ease and spoke to you..I bought my birdhouse and then we strolled out back and watched the birds eat there treats tied up in the trees..and wandered through looking at the herb garden...and now I realize that was at least 20 years ago. Where has the time flown to. I pray every single day that my preious friend stays well..and with me for many more years and many more phone calls that last until my ear is numb.
How empty my life would be without her. How do you say goodbye? I just do not know!
I am so sorry your have lost your dear friend. I am going to call mine tomorrow...and tell her how much I love more time!
We met in highschool in Home Ec. class....
My heart goes out to you, Sharon.

rebecca sweet said...

Sharon, your words "she passed away as quietly as a gossamer milkweed seed caught by a gentle breeze" have deeply touched me. I'm so sorry for your loss and wish I was there to give you a hug, and make you a cup of tea.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I hope when it is my time, I still have poems to write and flowers to plant and work to do. :)

She sounds like she was a wonderful woman to know, what a treasure.

nocton4 said...

what a very sad loss, such a moving tribute.
love and care xx

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

When Ethel died last week I lost one of the most important people in my life. We met, face to face only two times: when we first met at an Children's Lit conference in Maine, God only knows now how long ago. We did two books together (The Mushroom Man and The Blessing of the Beasts). It was at the publication celebration of The Blessings of the Beasts in NYC at the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine (where the story is set) that we met again. And, as it turns out, it was the last time we would see each other face to face. In between those two face to face meetings were score and scores of letters. I spent five years designing and publishing the only fully illustrated Bible of the 20th Century. I am not sure that I could have accomplished that feat without Ethel. She was always there, a mainstay. Her irreverence matched mine and her devotion to her Faith was a true inspiration. But despite the paucity of our face to face meetings, I depended upon her for her undaunted faith and her constant questioning of that faith, for her irreverent sense of humor, and for her cunning and sometimes cutting wit. She, above all others, had a perspective on matters of faith and religion that buoyed me through those five years.

I loved Ethel deeply. My life is now far poorer than it was when she was among the quick. Bless her sweet soul. I hope she lives forever and ever in the hearts of all of us who knew her.

Barry Moser (on his wife's account.)

Thea said...

Sharon, my deepest sympathy. t

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Sharon, I am so sorry. But how fortunate for you to have such a friend. I hope I pass in the same way. As I turn "this off" my thoughts and special prayers are with you...

RachelD said...

Oh, my Dear!

I saw your little note to Mona, and KNEW which Ethel you must mean!

I've had a Mississippi Girl's love affair with all things Maine for all my life, thinking that Heaven must be like a Summer in a Maine camp, and muttering Northwoods as a childhood mantra.

I'm so sorry for the MAYBE of my own not-tellings, for I so regret not having written Miss Eudora again of my great thanks, and I just recently learned with a great pang that Agnes Sligh Turnbull lived way up into the Eighties, and I could have sent a note to tell her what a great and wonderful presence her books had had in my growing-up.

Thank you for sharing this sad news---I know that you were both enriched by your friendship.


Sharon Lovejoy said...

Your comments mean the world to me. Ethel's large family of blood relatives and devoted friends have truly enjoyed reading these tributes to her. It helps.

Every morning at waking I pick up a book of poetry and read a bit. A good way to start any day. This morning I chose Mary Oliver's New and Selected Poems Volume II.

I turned to this poem:

Honey Locust

"If the heart has devoted itself to love, there is not a single inch of emptiness. Gladness gleams all the way to the grave."

What amazing words.

Thanking you again from my heart,


Pom Pom said...

Oh I'm so sorry, Sharon. I loved Rosebud and Red Flannel very very much. I pray for comfort.

ets said...

Dear Sharon,
Its Emily. Ethel's granddaughter.

I thought you would like to know that when I was in Maine the weekend she moved to Brentwood, I had a chance to be with her for a full day while mom worked. On the way in Mom handed me a little card for Grandma that had gotten to the hospital late or something like that. Anyway, when i got there I pampered her lips with peppermint Burt's Bees sparkly lip balm and rubbed her hands with lotion. I showed her the card and opened it to read it to her. "Who is it from?" I read your name (and a male name I can't recall) and her face lit up and she said, "Oh how lovely!" She enjoyed every word. I read it to her again a little bit later.

I taped the picture of the card's cathedral on the wall at her eye level. It was right next to the window which gave her a fine view of the tree in the courtyard. She was very pleased with this. "Isn't that nice".

Thank you for sharing some insight into your friendship in this post. I am so grateful to read your loving, honest and brilliant tribute to my grandma.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Emily,

That card was our last letter to your dear Grandmother. The little card you taped to the window by her bed was from ChristChurch in Oxford where we lit some candles in her honor after vespers. The card was serrated and the part Ethel didn't see was where we described the good and giving life she has lived and asked for prayers for her recovery.

I am so happy that you were there with her and spent some quality "girl" time taking care of her.

Sending best wishes and hopes that we'll meet next summer.


Beth said...

Dear Sharon,

I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like she was a remarkable woman and I hope to experience her books very soon. You have memorialized her in a very special way. love, Beth

Elizabeth and Gary said...

Dear Sharon,
I am so very sorry for your sadness. Ethel was a talented and creative writer and she was your dear friend.The memories you hold in your heart are a blessing and a part of her.
How wonderful to have had each other in your life's.
Big hugs, Elizabeth

Nan said...

Oh, dear Sharon, I am so very sorry.

Dawn said...

Ethel knows. She absolutely knows how much you loved and cared for her.

Thank you for this fortunate that such a bright light left behind these precious books so she can live on forever, uplifting and inspiring those who read her words.

I'm thinking of you, and holding your hand...


Cynthia said...

Very moving. I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your friend. I feel sure that you will meet again and like you suggest, in a garden. May the memories of Ethel linger with you for a long time.

suzanne said...

Dear Sharon

I like to think that our special friends, the real special ones, have and will be with us forever. I am so sure that Ethel will continue to inspire you and help you with your writing. How wonderful to know that as you walk your beautiful gardens you can remember your meeting.

Love and comfort to you Sharon
Lots of love

AnaGF said...

I think you said good-bye to your friend in the most wonderful and tender way. And yes, I am sure you will meet again in a garden. Thank you for sharing your memories of your friend and her work to all of us who weren't lucky enough to know her.

Privet and Holly said...

Tears, dear Sharon....
What a lovely reminder
to not put off that phone
call or e-mail {or dare I
say, letter...}. Your
Ethel sounds like a most
beautiful soul. I can only
imagine how much you will
miss her....and I am confident
that YES, you will meet again.
In a garden.
Love to you,
xx Suzanne

Lydia said...

Prayers be with you. The heart grows at the broken places.

My most regretted moment in life is my last words to my friend Sharon. I told her I had to go do laundry.I will never be so enslaved to something as umimportant as unfinished chores.

My mother passed away Mother's Day weekend this year. She spent her first mother's day with her own mother (who died in childbirth when my mother was 2) and with her own child- Candace, who was stillborn.

As long as I have my garden, I have my mother. I hope you have something of your friend where you can "visit" as best you can.


Vicki Boster said...

Sharon - the loss of such a dear friend is truely a heartache. You should not beat yourself up because you cold not possible always be there. Life happens - we all have to live and do things -most important is that we care and that we let our friends know that we care. I am sure that she loved you as you did her.

This is a truely beautiful tribute to your dear friend. I can only imagine that when she counted her blessings that your friendship was certainly among them.


Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

Much love to you. I'm sorry I didn't see this until now. What a lovely light she was in the world.~~Dee

Erin | Bygone Living said...

Tasha Tudor has been such in inspiration to so many lives; including my grandmothers, and my very own!

What a wonderful giveaway you've come up with, and such a lovely tribute! Count me in for sure :) ♥

P.S.- Your pictures look beautiful, as always :) Your kitchen is divine!! (And so is that recipe!)

Jan said...

This is sad, Sharon. She was a much loved writer. We have a few of her sweet books. She accomplished a lot and seemed to live a full life, although for one like her, it just wasn't full enough;-) I would like to be able to say something along the same lines when my time comes.