on friendship (or 'a lot of words and feelings')

the glory of friendship / elizabethcraneswartz.com so as you know... it's been awhile. I've been keeping busy without much energy for blogging, painting, or really anything. this first part of 2014 has been trying and I've done my best to keep my head above water but this past month has just about undone me. I lost my friend lynnie at the end of april to breast cancer and at the beginning of may, I lost jennifer, one of my dearest and best friends to bile duct cancer just three months after being diagnosed. I've had a hard time saying goodbye. actually, I'm not sure I have. you see, lynnie kept her metastatic cancer pretty secret so it was an enormous shock but I understand completely - she was able to spend her time with her 5 children and her inner circle, which is pretty special. jen's illness was another story altogether. the whole thing was lightening fast and devastating and I've been friends with jen forever. she's been in my life through so many stages. she loved my children and was like a fairy godmother to them which meant the world to us. jen was on my personal board of advisors and I feel lost without her.lulu-lovesI was able to see jen three weeks before. before she knew there would be no more chemo, before she was told they'd done all they could, before we knew any better. she'd checked herself into a hotel as a 'getaway' of sorts so my other dear friend, emily and I drove down to jersey city to hang out sleepover-style. I'm glad we were ignorant then because we spent HOURS talking and laughing and philosophizing and gossiping. it wasn't heavy. it was like every other time we'd spent together over the last 25+ years - easy and rich.

I was able to see her again just two days before she died, to see her smile and to tell her I loved her one last time. I will never forget that gift. Mass MOCA / Feb 2011

me, jennifer and emily at Mass MOCA

gosh she made me feel good about myself. she challenged me to be better and I'm the richer for having had her in my life. I will miss her uncanny ability to somehow know I was in some kind of jam/funk - "just say the word. I'm ready to go - I can be there in 4 hours, I just need to put on a bra." she was like mary poppins that way. she meant it, too.

Reunion-2010-Kristin,-Elizabeth-Jen-and-Becky

l to r: kristin, me, jen and rebecca at our 20th reunion

jen was one of a kind - a caring, clever, compassionate, funny, smart and generous woman. jen championed the underdogs, had no time for the apathetic, could tell a story like no other and listened like you were the most important person in the world. she's been there from the beginning and loved me through all of it. she knew when to call bullshit, she knew when to cheer. jen wasted no time getting to the point and she knew exactly the right words to say. and her WORDS! her words were her super power. she was able to say volumes with just one quick sentence. I can actually hear her voice when i read through all our texts and messages. she had such a talent with words. she could package and market the shit out of anything - including herself. (ultimately, she fashioned these talents into her career and she was a rockstar - here's what AdAge wrote about her). the best seat was ALWAYS the one next to jennifer.make-others-feel

so here's the thing... my friend alex wrote a post about her short and sweet 'advice for grads' (should she ever be asked) and I love the idea of this (and jen would've agreed completely with everything alex listed.) if I was ever asked to share words of wisdom, I would craft it entirely from the things I've learned from jen. I'd start with this (edited) list below. (fortunately my friend emily has a similar fabulous word talent) they're just a fraction of her spirit and who she was but they're good and true. she meant what she said and said what she meant. how many people really live like that?

Things I know to be true because of Jennifer Landers (in no particular order):

  • ask if something is going to change your life before committing to it
  • cheeseburgers can be consumed any time of day
  • when on vacation, leave the paperback books at the hotel/resort: it will lighten your load and make someone happy
  • talk to everyone in your life like they are people even if they are 6 years old
  • be present
  • cheese and crackers is a meal
  • there is always time to shop
  • celebrate your own birthday. always.
  • love people even if you don't always like them so much
  • care about everyone around you more than they care about themselves
  • be awesome every day

Heart-Shadow,-Jen-with-Elizabeth-Swatrz-and-Emily-Wallengren

our friend rebecca wrote a great post about friendship, too and how we've all learned never to take friendship for granted.

and so I leave you with one more thought, poignant because of maya angelou's passing yesterday but also because I find comfort with the idea that jennifer was there to welcome maya. I can imagine the endless conversations the two will have. (thank you again, emily, for finding this quote)

"Dignity—the word itself—has come to mean different things to different people, as many words do. It doesn't just mean always being stiff and composed. It means a belief in oneself, that one is worthy of the best. Dignity means that what I have to say is important, and I will say it when it's important for me to say it. Dignity really means that I deserve the best treatment I can receive. And that I have the responsibility to give the best treatment I can to other people."  - maya angelou

this post is made possible by chardonnay, tissues and some really spectacular memories