This I have learned…

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

“There is nothing I wouldn’t do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature.” Jane Austin

I first met Anne at Ohio University; Anne was one of my college roommates.

Anne was wonderfully outgoing and friendly and I welcomed her as a college friend but she would, ultimately, be a life-long friend.

Anne majored in Spanish and would eventually obtain her Masters in the field. She was so helpful to me as I struggled with my German-speaking Spanish professor. That was Anne – selfless, helpful and considerate.

I left Ohio University to pursue a career and to attend The University of Toledo for my degrees. Anne and I kept in touch over the years and when she was attending the University of Madrid during her junior year, Janet, a high school friend, and I visited her.

True to Anne’s style, she notified Janet and me of the details for our flight from Cleveland to Madrid. The three of us toured Madrid and also Barcelona, then flew to Rome for a few days. It was simply an idyllic trip.

After our terrific soiree of singleness travel, Anne returned to Madrid for the conclusion of her junior year and Janet and I returned to the United States to resume our respective careers.

For a while our lives took different turns and then Anne and her husband moved to an apartment complex where I lived! I was so happy that we were able to resume our relationship which lasted 52 years!

Last October, after a day of errands, I arrived home, grabbed the mail and went about the business of starting dinner. A small envelope was in the mail. I opened it and on a small Post-It note from a mutual friend were the words, “You probably already know about Anne’s death, but here is her obituary.”

And it was here where reality set in – the reality that I would never see Anne again, nor hear her voice or see her beautiful and angelic face! Between tears I began to ruminate about all of the years of memories we had forged between us.

But the other reality is that she would be at peace after decades of living with an alcoholic husband and their losing their beautiful and vintage home because of it and, subsequently, their having to move into a trailer park due to her husband not being able to keep a job. Anne had a severe heart attack 10 years ago, ostensibly due to all of the stress. Surgery was out of the question because of where the occlusions were near her heart; she had to go through cardiac rehab.

Despite all of her angst regarding her “lot in life,” Anne was always cheerful and was the friend anyone could ever hope to have. She never loved in halves; she truly loved wholly.

Friendship is precious, but long-lasting friendship is rare.

This I have learned.