Life Without Candy

Ok, spoiler alert…this is not about my favorite junk food and the evidence of the extra ten pounds I have been packing around for the last 20 years!  After my post last week about my friend Launi, who swooped in and rescued my broken soul after my best friend, Candy Swanson, had died of Ovarian Cancer, I received such an outpouring of love, friendship stories and inquiries to know more about Candy’s story. As I sat down to write it this week I realized that I had memorialized part of our story as the first chapter of my very first book. I went back and reread it and decided I would simply share that story with you all.  So here it is, the first chapter of my first book, The Sacred Sisterhood of Wonderful Wacky Women, which I had dedicated to her.

They Who Are Best Friends. 

I love having girlfriends in my life. . I have been blessed by such an abundance of different women in my life. I can’t figure out if God loves me so much that he is gracing me with this honor or He figures I’m so messed up I need all the help I can get. Most likely the latter….’cause I have a lot of them. He’s given me beach friends, and shopping friends, yoga friends, diet friends, and art friends

I have phone friends, church friends and neighbor friends. There are friends that I can call on the spur of the moment and others that together we plan months ahead for a trip, an outing or a gathering of the goddesses  party. I have been given friends that I learn from and friends that I lean on. Friends I laugh with and friends I cry with.

Then…different from all the rest, He gave me Candy.

I always use the present tense when speaking of her in my life. Although she died of ovarian cancer in July of 2003, I feel her presence almost continually. Besides, I think I’m still stuck in the ‘denial’ phase of grief. But hey, so far it’s working for me!

I speak of her often as she was and is the inspiration for so much of my work. There is no other person in my life, save my mother, whose life so influences me for good. Candy and I met in 1984 half a world away in a run down little hotel in Tele Viv, Israel a block away from the Mediterranean Sea.   We had each, independently, signed up for a tour of the Isreal and were all to meet at this spot to link up with the  other members of the group to spend several weeks exploring the rich history of this ancient land. It was a by-chance meeting that was to blossom 6years later when I moved into her turf of  Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.. I was unprepared for the blessing of her friendship I was about to receive. My inescapable draw towards her forever changed me. I am the woman, the artist and the author I am today, in part , because of her.

Best girlfriend-to-girlfriend relationships are so precious. They fill a need within us that all the other relationship lack. As close as you might be to other men and women, until you have truly experienced this sacred girl to girl connection, you won’t understand.  Men never will. (Both of our husbands quit trying. They accept it at face value that it just simply does!)

There is an undefinable closeness between Candy and me.  A comfort level I have never had with any other friend. I could start a thought, she’d finish it. I never have to explain myself or excuse myself. She knew where I came from and where I was going. When I got off track, she’d lovingly nudge me back on. When I resisted, she’d chew me out!

I think what is most interesting to me is that since it has been so long since I have seen her, and  be able to have a two way conversation with her (I still have lots of one way talks…I’m just assuming she’s listening) the individual memories that stand out most in my mind are silly ones. Memories that to most people won’t be significant or profound. But they are memories that for me define such a closeness and comfort level with each other that all guards were down.  One such silly incident happened on a beautiful fall morning. I was in the back of the house, in my bedroom, blow drying my hair when I could hear my big, fat, Maine Coon cat, Bob, meowing… actually more of a whiny howl… every few seconds followed by a woman’s voice. At first I thought it was the TV. It wasn’t. It was Candy. Tired and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the strict macrobiotic diet she was on in an attempt to eradicate the cancer in her body, she wanted a break. She was craving ice cream and she knew I’d have some. (I’m a Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream junkie) There she sat, her thin frail body sitting at my kitchen bar with the whole half gallon of Briers Ice Cream and a spoon.  She had coaxed Bob, my 28 pound cat, to jump up on the bar next to her (He’s not allowed up there but she loved Bob and he adored her.) Together they were sharing bites of ice cream directly out of the carton. In a very matter of fact tone, she was explaining to Bob that she wasn’t as fond of the chocolate chips as she was the ice cream itself. So she was spitting them out in to a little pile on the counter top next to him. He loving batted them around the bar and amused her as she nibbled on the cool decadent cream that was so taboo.

As I peeked around the corner at them, I was first struck by the thought that even though I have been known to steal a few bites out of the carton myself, if one of my kids had been doing this I would have hollered, “Knock it off.” Yet seeing my dear precious friend commit this very same act overwhelmed me with a sense of warmth. I felt so blessed to have a friend that felt such irrepressible comfort and familiarity that she could, without asking or even announcing her presence, walk in to my house, and make herself at home. I left them to their binge and never said a word. By the time I was  done with my hair, and walked out, she was done with her splurge. She never said a word about it. The fact that she didn’t feel the need to tell me, confess or explain said it all.   Like I said, it’s silly, but it’s a lasting memory I will always cherish.

My heart and mind are filled with the wit and wisdom of my dear friend. Sometimes I miss her so much its overwhelming. But I feel blessed beyond words to have been given the chance to have her in my life. As I reflect on the things she taught me, the love we shared and the mutual respect we had for each other, I can’t even imagine the woman I would be today if not for her influence in my life.  The greatest honor I have ever had, was that she chose me as her best friend too.