Josie and I were newlyweds when our husbands entered their second year of medical school. We worked during the day providing financial sustenance to our family of two. We had our own apartments, our own cars, and our own snow shovels. In the upstate city of Syracuse, shovels were a necessity.
Our hopes of spending time together with our grooms faded after the summer honeymoon ended and medical school began. Most nights Josie and I slept alone while "the boys" studied in the library or wandered the hospital corridors waiting for the emergency that would offer teaching opportunities.
During those cold, wintry days and nights, Josie and I were inseparable. People assumed we were two single women painting the town. We were really married women with time to spend freely: movies, museums, tennis, walks in the park, dinners that we cooked from scratch, television with homemade buttered popcorn. Humor and friendship kept us sane. Our first year of marriage was a portrait in self-preservation.
After medical school, residency training sent our friends to Washington, D.C. We moved to North Carolina. We communicated often and shared our joys. She became pregnant and I became pregnant. She had two boys, five and three. I had two girls, five and four.
Then, unexpectedly, Josie got very sick and died tragically of colon cancer at the age of 32. My best friend. My sister. My soul-saver. Vanished.
Fast forward slowly, three decades plus. I say "hello" to the grandmother of my student from religious school. Shabbat services had concluded, and I still had my name tag on. She looked hauntingly at me and asked if I had been married to a man named Michael.
Sitting before me was the stepmother of my late friend Josie’s two sons, Adam and Joshua.
A physical tremor summoned the memories of my special friendship to swirl around my soul. Seven years ago, Sharon moved to Washington, D.C., to be near one of her daughters. We now live three blocks away from each other. Sharon holds the key to a past I had never forgotten.
No one really vanishes. The spirit of that person endures beyond time and space and guides us. Heaven does send us gifts. The past does return to the present. The future is again unfolding.