01 July 2016

RIP, good friend

One of my oldest and closest friends passed away a few hours ago. Her name was Cheryl, and she lived in California. We first worked together in 1973 at the University of Illinois as teachers (we both taught French language courses at the university starting when we were in our early 20s).

Both of us spent the 1974-75 school year in Paris — she spent the year teaching English in a high school there, and I was working for the U of I year-abroad program. Experiences we shared there cemented our friendship. There are always high points and low points when you're a stranger in a strange land and trying to live in a foreign language. We all supported each other as best we could. We struggled. We laughed. We cried. And we learned a lot.

Cheryl ended up moving to California around 1980, and I moved to France at the same time. Out there, she met and married John, who passed away in the late 1990s. Over here, I met Walt, and we eventually got married too. When Walt and I moved to California in 1986, we needed a place to stay while we looked for an apartment. Cheryl and John took us in. They were our hosts for three months. Cheryl was always very generous with her friends.

It was thanks to Cheryl that I got my first job in Silicon Valley, in 1989. She was working for a software company that needed to hire an editor. I was miserable in my job in San Francisco. She recommended me. That job changed my life and later made it financially possible for me and Walt to make the move to France. Through Cheryl, I met a number of people to whom I have grown close and shared a big part of my life with (you know who you are...).

Cheryl visited us half a dozen times after we moved to France a dozen years ago. In 2008 we three went down to the Ile d'Oléron and spent a week eating seafood and seeing the island. Then we went to Paris, where she and Walt attended the Roland Garros tennis tournament. A few days later, Cheryl and I had a memorable three- or four-hour lunch in a restaurant in the Marais. Those are especially good memories for me, and I know they were for Cheryl.

Cheryl at the Château de Montpoupon in 2003
The last time she visited France was in 2011. She came and stayed with us for three weeks, which she could do because she had retired from her 30-year career as a computer programmer and manager in Silicon Valley. Did I mention how smart she always was? She was also very funny and charming when she felt comfortable, and we could spend hours reminiscing about all the different unexpected and amazing experiences we had shared in Illinois, California, and France.

If she could read this, I would remind her of a load of powdered dried tomatoes dumped on the highway, and of driving around in the French car we called the magic bus. Of the coffee maker in our gîte on the Ile d'Oléron that wouldn't cooperate. Of the big plumes of black smoke from piles of tires striking fishermen were burning. Of the birds called hoopoes. Of the gift shop full ceramic and porcelain owls in Vouvray. Of the three-month postal workers' strike in Paris all those years ago. Of the time I spilled a glass of red wine all over her when she, Walt, and I were flying to Paris together one summer 15 years go. We really laughed a lot over the years.

In 2011, it was obvious that Cheryl's health was declining. She was having mobility issues, and she was frustrated about it. When she left to go to Paris and back to California that year, I took her over to the TGV station in Tours to help her get her luggage onto the train and make sure everything went as planned. As the train doors were closing, she looked at me, waved, and asked me not to forget what good friends we had been for so long. As the train pulled out, I had a feeling I might never see her again.

And so it was to be. RIP, finally... too early, but nothing can be done about it now.

44 comments:

  1. What a great obituary...
    a celebration of a life and a friendship...
    The hole in your heart will heal...
    but these memories will live on...
    What a lovely person to have known.

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  2. Losing such a true friend is a very great loss. You have written a beautiful tribute to Cheryl and your friendship. My sincere condolences.

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    1. Unfortunately, it happens more and more as the years go by. Thanks for your thoughts. Cheryl's parents and sisters must be very sad right now.

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    2. They are devastated but this is beautifully written. Thanks for the memories!!

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    3. They are devastated but this is beautifully written. Thanks for the memories!!

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  3. A wonderful tribute, Ken. I'm sure Cheryl will be missed, but can see that you have lovely memories of your times together.

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  4. Even though it was to be expected, I am so sorry to hear the sad news. My thoughts go to you and her family.

    Yes, Cheryl was a very sweet girl. The last time I saw her was when I had lunch with her and Walt at Le Troquet in Paris several years ago. The first time I met her and John was at another restaurant but this time in Sunnyvale (?) in California. I'll fondly remember her.

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    1. With other friends recently, we have been consoling ourselves by remembering the funny, gracious, quick-witted, smiling, generous person that Cheryl was in her prime. These last few years have been very difficult for her. She never got over losing John, I think.

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  5. It was obvious what a great friend to you Cheryl was. You spoke of her often, in person and on the blog. This is a great tribute to an old friend.

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    1. Cheryl was only 64 years old -- the same age as her husband John when he died, it occurs to me -- and that's far too young. Life can be cruel, but it can also be very benevolent.

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    2. Oh, I didn't realize that, about being the same age as John. What serendipity--good or bad, who's to say?

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  6. So sorry to hear about Cheryl. As you say, far too young.

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  7. I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you had wonderful times together. Friends like that are what make life rich.

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  8. My condolences .. losing a good friend of many years is the same as losing a family member .. But she was a gift while she was here .

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  9. way to young, and I know what you mean about losing friends......so sorry for your loss, that was a lovely tribute

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  10. I love seeing Cheryl at Montpoupon- a place that you've taken many a friend, a place that shouts, "here I am in France with my dear friend, Ken". It shows the joy of traveling and shared love of France and a friendship that will always be there, only now it's in the rich memories. What a blessing to have had such a friend. Your tribute will be a help to her friends and family.

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  11. Oh, Ken, I am so sad to see this news. Thank you for sharing all of these memories with us. I believe that you were on that trip to the Ile d'Oléron with Cheryl when I first re-found you via this blog. Rest in peace, Cheryl.

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  12. I am so very sorry for your loss. Cheryl would have loved to read this tribute, it is very moving, heat felt and simply beautiful. She must be smiling right now.

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  13. I know you were wonderful friends, and I met Cheryl through you. I'm so very sorry. The last time I saw her was on Thanksgiving, and it was a struggle for her to get up the 3 steps to our house. But she came, and I'm glad we had that time together. Je suis désolée.

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    1. Ginny, you were an important person in Cheryl's life. I'm so glad you included her in your Thanksgiving gatherings. I know she looked forward to them.

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  14. Heartfelt condolences to you Ken on losing a very dear friend. May all the good memories gathered through time sustain you during this very sad time.
    I am in the same situation as you are - my neighbour, across the street, passed away at the young age of 51 two weeks ago and I can't stop thinking of her every time I open or close the drapes or working outside in the garden or the yard. She became a trusted friend and a good gardening buddy over the years . Like you said : too early and nothing can be done

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  15. Ken, I am so very sorry for you to have lost your dear friend. 64 is too young. Thank you for sharing your journey together over the years in this shining tribute to Cheryl.

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  16. Cheryl was one of the nicest people I have every known. Some things I remember: We met at SPC in 1984. Both recent hires, we were grouped in the "bull pen" with others for whom there was no cubicle ready. I got some good tips from her about low level programming. Cheryl and I partnered at duplicate bridge for awhile at the Palo Alto bridge club. She was a much better player than I ever was. I remember visiting when John was sick. They had hung a bunch of hummingbird feeders just outside the big windows. Every time a hummingbird appeared one of them would call out, "hummingbird!" Once on a short visit to Chicago I remember noticing how nice everyone was. And then I remembered Cheryl was from Chicago. She was always such a gracious person, always with a ready smile and a warm laugh. Having moved out of the area and lost touch with many, her passing is perhaps more of a surprise for me since I did not know her health was failing. I will always remember her as someone I'd like to be more like. We will miss you, Cheryl.

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    1. What a lovely tribute, Ann. Thank you for sharing this.

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    2. Yes, thanks Ann. Those hummingbird feeders were a source of joy back then. Cheryl really rose to the occasion when it came time to ease John's passing. Before he died, he told me his major concern was Cheryl's continued well-being, and how she would do after he was gone.

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  17. What a great woman and friend. RIP

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  18. I'm so sorry for your loss, Ken. Truly, what a terrible blow this must be. I'm thinking of you and Walt today.

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  19. I'm so sorry. You are both on my mind. I met Cheryl only a few times, but liked her very much.

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  20. Beautifully written. It is a heartwrenching loss for all of us. Thanks for recounting all the memories and painting the complete picture of who Cheryl was. We will all miss her.

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    1. You know it. You did so much to try to help her. I'm sure she appreciated it, and I know how much she loved you both, Candy and John, in her way. She introduced you to us in 1986, of you remember. We cooked artichokes at Cheryl's and John's one evening, and we hit it off as if we had known each other forever because we knew Cheryl and John. Will we ever forget what a topsy-turvy year 1998 was...

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  21. I'm so very sorry. I felt I knew Cheryl a little bit through your mentions of her here.
    How very lucky you were to find each other as friends and to remain so for so long.

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  22. My condolences Ken. I just read Ginny's post on FB and realized you both knew her. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Simon. Hope you are healthy and happy. Ginger and Julian too.

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  23. Lovely, Ken - such a loss. My heart goes out to you and Walt - as well as Sue, of course.

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  24. I'm so sorry, Ken. I have celebrated Thanksgiving with Cheryl many times at Ginny's. She was always so warm to me. I'm very, very sorry.

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    1. Cheryl and I were good friends for a long long time. I'll miss her -- already do.

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  25. Cheryl, you and Walt shared many wonderful experiences together that I have enjoyed reading about just now, Ken. Let's believe she could read those words. There are tears trying to release themselves on my face right now.

    Mary in Oregon

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  26. Condolences Ken. It is hard to lose a best friend. I couldn't help but cry when I was reading this - so many happy memories! One of my life long best friends past away 2 weeks ago today with cancer, exactly 4 years and 1 day after my mother. She was 65. I don't know what I would have done without her after my mother passed away. She was my rock always insisting I spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family when mine didn't give me the time of day. I'm still trying to come to terms with it. She is the 2nd best friend I have lost within 9 months. Life just isn't going to be the same.

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  27. Such a lovely, tribute, Ken. She loved you & Walt so much! Thank you for sharing the history of your friendship, and so many fond memories of Cheryl in happier days. She was warm, funny, smart, hilariously caustic, and gracious. I'll miss her too, and I share your gratitude for the good times we had.

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  28. Here is to Cheryl Adams, the biggest Chicago Cubs fan that I have ever known. She died far too young and she missed her beloved Cubs winning the World Series in 7 games on November 2, 2016 after a 108 year drought. She would have loved to see it and I hope she knows it happened wherever her spirit is. I miss Cheryl as I know all of her friends that have read and added to this blog do.

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  29. Thanks for your comment, Gordon. A lot of people have had Cheryl on their mind today. It seems unfair that she had to miss the Cubs' win and that makes me sad.

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