Tuesday, March 7, 2006

You just call out my name...

and you know, wherever I am, I'll come runnin' to see you again. You've got a friend. (Thank you JT.)

I want to tell you about a friend of mine. It was my first REAL job out of college and she was my boss. Older than me by about 30 years, she was good friends with my Mom. She was one of those people faith oozed out of; her love of God was almost palpable but she didn't try to beat you over the head with religion.
Somewhere along the way we became friends. We ended up leaving that company and moving on to another, though not at the same time. She became my confidant and she and I became closer that she and my Mom. I could tell her anything. We joked that someday I should write her life story.

Julia B. (she never would divulge what the B stood for, I still like to think about that and try to figure it out) grew up in the 40s in a rural Southern town in a poor black family. They farmed other people's land, picked cotton and basically lived hand to mouth. Somehow she worked her way up and out, ended up in Washington, D.C. working as a secretary. She suffered through the Civil Rights movement and really made something of her life. She had her own apartment and car and made good money. Unlike most women in her generation she married later in life after a lenghty courtship. She wasn't a wild woman by any means, but she smoked and drank and partied with her friends.

Julia got married and several years into her marriage had a son, the light of her life. She was incredibly proud of her son and gave him every opportunity she never had. She gave to everyone she knew. Though she never made it to senior management or became rich, she led an incredible, worthwhile life. She LIVED her life.

When we were struggling to get pregnant with The Girl, Julia gave me a shoulder to cry on and words of comfort. She threw me a baby shower when it finally happened. She was at the hospital when The Girl was born. She was at The Girl's first birthday party.

One day she found a lump in her breast; she waited, too busy taking care of everyone else. When she finally started treatment it was really too late. She went through chemo, alone because she didn't want her son or husband to have to deal with it; she'd go for treatments on her lunch break. Many people didn't even know she was sick. By this time I worked in another company in another city, but we still were close. She'd come to the house for visits or we'd go visit her.

Julia knew before the rest of us that she was getting much worse; she knew she wouldn't get better. She was not distraught or angry or depressed. She knew she was going to Heaven and she was ready. She made all of her arrangements. She picked out everything she'd need, casket, funeral home, flowers, everything, though we also didn't know this until afterwards. On April 15, 1998 her son called me one morning, I was getting ready for work. Julia had died. The cancer had pretty much spread throughout her body. I was numb. He called back later and said his Mom had left instructions for her funeral, she wanted my husband and I to speak.

The day of the funeral I didn't know what to expect, but it was the most beautiful, most uplifting funeral I've ever been too. Julia picked out the music she wanted played, who she wanted to sing and a handful of people she wanted to talk about her. She touched so many lives, not only her family, but people from all walks of life through jobs, through her church and through everything she did. It was a celebration of her.

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