I met Wendy 15 years (or so) ago. We met through a networking group. The first time I met her in person, I liked her immediately. She was tiny and made me feel like a giant of a person. Wendy had a gentle, kind and sweet spirit. Her smile was bright. Her big eyes were beautiful but haunted. When we met, she was hesitant, apologetic and fragile. In her life, she had been deeply hurt and could still be easily hurt. In our early friendship, she would express shock and surprise that I liked her and that we were friends. She needed a lot of reassurance and guarantees that I wanted her in my life and that I loved her. It wasn’t manipulative. At that point in her life, she just truly didn’t see her own value as a person. We talked a lot over lunches together. My favorite visits were the long meadering walks, with her beloved darling dog Bear, through her neighborhood. After the walks, we’d settle back in her living room and keep talking. We exchanged email conversations and would connect on the phone. When I moved from San Diego back to the Pacific Northwest, we stayed in touch. It wasn’t every week or every month. But, if too much time went by, one or both of us would reach out to reconnect. And when we moved back to San Diego, Wendy and I were able to meet up in person again. We had such good visits!
About five years ago, Wendy discovered a love of metalsmithing and making jewelry. Not only did she love it, she was good at it. She had a unique eye and her work was beautiful. She immersed herself in learning, finding classes, workshops, and mentors. I helped her launch an Etsy store and we talked about how to build her a website to showcase her work. When we connected, our conversations began to cover the ups and downs of doing creative work. We talked about how challenging it is to us personally and just how much spiritual and personal growth is required to sit down and work and then share that work with others. We shared our disappointments and celebrated our wins! Every conversation we had, I left inspired and encouraged. We were, for a short while there, creative cohorts. We’d send pictures of ideas we had. We’d text or call each other when we were stuck… and we’d help the other past those moments of self-doubt and paralysis and back into doing the work.
A little over a year ago, she called to give me some news. She wanted to tell me in person that she was moving back to Georgia. She had an opportunity with a friend, who had become an advocate, in helping her launch her jewelry business. She was a little apprehensive at the move. It felt like a risky change, but she was excited about the opportunity. She was pursuing her dream of being a fulltime artist. Before she left, she and I spent most of a day together. And then I saw her once more when Paul, Amira and I met her for lunch. We had pho and then frozen yogurt.
We walked out to the parking lot and began to say our goodbyes. We kept talking, not really wanting to part ways. She was shining, bright and when we hugged, I told her how much I loved her and how proud of her I was. We both cried. She called me when she arrived in GA. And we talked, emailed and texted, especially right after she arrived. Our conversations became more sporadic, but we kept in touch. She was doing shows and having some modest initial success with her jewelry. She was taking classes and making new friends. We talked about connecting up somewhere for a creative retreat together. The last time she called, she was having a flash of self-doubt and fear of being a fraud. We talked a while and by the end, we were laughing and both inspired to get back to work.
I found out today that my friend, Wendy, died on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015. She committed suicide. When I read the announcement on Facebook, my heart stuttered and sunk. It felt like I must be reading it wrong. Or maybe someone tagged the wrong Wendy when sharing the sad news about another Wendy. It couldn’t be my Wendy. I clicked on links and names associated with the post and it was certain. It wasn’t a mistake. My friend Wendy is gone. I knew she struggled with depression, especially in the early years of our friendship. She had grown so much in the years I knew her. She had steadied and become stronger. She was an encouragement and support to me. I really love her and have always been grateful for our friendship. I didn’t know she was struggling so deeply again. It breaks my heart to think of it.
I mentioned that Wendy made me feel like a giant. The thing I want you to know about her is that was not just how she made me feel physically. That’s how she made me feel as a person. She saw me as a shining light, full of beauty, talent and ability. Seeing myself reflected back to me, through her eyes, was an expansive experience. When she talked about me, her eyes were bright and she was animated. She believed in me in ways that I haven’t always believed in myself. I grew in the years that she and I were friends. I know myself better than I ever have and I understand more. I can see more of the me that she saw.
Wendy, I love you. I miss you already. Thank you for sharing yourself with me. Your soul shone through your fears, vulnerabilities and self-doubt as much as it did through the successes. You worked so hard to heal your wounds, learn to love yourself and express the creative beauty with you. You are surrounded by infinite love as you rest and heal your soul. I know it was a hard journey. I’m sorry that you suffered. I’m sending you all my love and know that you are safe.