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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Elaine - Part 4

This is the fourth and final post about my wonderful friend Elaine Hughes.  To read from the beginning, click here.

Elaine visited us in Macon just once.  By that time, she had undergone a mastectomy but was still following mostly holistic paths to a cure.  
Clint’s ex-wife was hosting a mini reunion of her “group” from high school.  One evening we were invited for drinks, and when we walked into the living room, Elaine was stretched out on the Queen Anne sofa, eating strawberries and whipped cream, a contented smile on her face.  When she saw us, she leapt up and grabbed us, kisses all around.  
She declared that she wanted to see our house, so later, we brought her, along with another of her classmates, Peggy Sue, to our house.  I took this photo of them standing at the fireplace.  Yes, that’s Elaine on the left.  The sequined top she is wearing is one she “borrowed” from me.  She said she needed a fancy top to wear out to dinner the next night, so we went into my closet and found it, by then too small for me.  She changed into it for the photo, and it became hers!  I love the idea that Elaine wore some of my things.  There’s a connection there that is hard to explain.
During her only visit to see us when we lived on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, she was clearly showing the effects of her disease, resting frequently and eating almost nothing.  But she was herself - positive, loving, generous.  She sat for hours on the sunny dock, writing in her journal, gazing across the creek and the marshes to a marsh hummock where Wood Storks roosted.  She was very happy during those five days.  Clint and I were blessed to have her all to ourselves, and we soaked her up, her positive energy, her generous and accepting ways.  
Elaine and I went jet-skiing out to the Frederica River and found  a pod of dolphins at the mouth of the creek.  We shut down the engine, and Elaine began to pound the side of the ski and call to the dolphins.  
“Hello, lovely creatures.  We are her to play with you.”
In just a few moments, the magical aquatic mammals were diving under the ski, rolling around us in a circle.  One raised his head and peered at us, allowing Elaine to pet his head.  It was as though she were in a trance, communicating with the animals in a cooing and soothing voice, saying, “Oh, how I love you all.”
Elaine, as frail as she was, got cold, and we turned on the engine to return to the dock, thinking the noise would drive them away, but the dolphins escorted us most of the way, following in our wake, rolling along in their graceful otherworldly way.  I have never felt so close to God.
Before she would depart, Elaine insisted that she give us a remembrance of the time we had together.  Clint drove her over to the nursery and she selected a Sago Palm to plant at our front door, and upon their return, she directed him in the placement and planting.  
“When you look at this palm, you will always remember me."  And we did.
Over the next two years, as her disease progressed and invaded other parts of her gentle and delicate body, she became reclusive, spending most of her time in Big Sur and at home with her two sons.  We exchanged phone calls and emails but eventually she pulled away.  She explained that she wanted her death to be her own, did not want us to suffer it with her.  The last two years of her life, we did not see Elaine at all.
She died in June, 2001, leaving me the gift of her love, a treasure immeasurable and permanent.  I will always love her.  Every day that I was on the island, I saw that palm and thought of her.  Though we moved back to Macon, Georgia, in 2005 and sold the marsh house in 2006, the Sego is still there, and whenever I visit the coast, I ride by and blow it a kiss.  It is always returned in a soft breeze on my cheek.

© 2011 cj Schlottman


Sue said...

What a beautiful story that was, CJ. All of it, but this last installment especially.

Thanks for sharing it!


Linda @ A La Carte said...

What a lovely memory of your friend! Nice to know she did not loose herself as her disease progressed. hugs, Linda

Martha Mawson said...

Writing my appreciation to you through tears. What a gift. Some people come into our lives with no other purpose than to enlighten us and bring us unconditional and unfiltered love. And as much as Elaine meant to you, you know you meant as much to her. I am sure she feels your love even now. Thank you for sharing this with us...

Katie Gates said...

Lovely story; beautiful post.

Ames said...

Wow CJ. She was a vibrant woman and so full of life. I'm sorry I didn't comment on the last three installments but I had to keep reading.
I think your BFF is an inspiration to women everywhere. I wish I could live life large like she did. You are certainly blessed to know her.~Ames