A few years ago one of my high school classmates magically appeared upon my Facebook page and we immediatley became fast friends. We first would have first met over fifty years ago, although, I regret that I do not recall that meeting. However, our reunion through social media was more than enough to make up for a half century spent apart. We were indeed kindred spirits.
My friend, like me, left our home town and went to far off places. She built her career in Chicago as an executive with a large retail firm. On Facebook she always appeared “well turned out” and this must have influenced her good taste in retail fashion and resulted in her very successful business career.
Unlike me, she returned to our hometown and stayed closely connected to many of our high school friends and was instrumental in planning our fiftieth high school reunion, that will occur next year. I suppose I lived slightly vicariously through her posts showing her fun adventures with our high school friends as they enjoyed wonderful dinners, luncheons and excursions to rummage sales such as First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas (https://www.cantontxfirstmonday.com/first-monday-trade-days-dates.htm).
I noticed that at each of these events, my friend was impeccably dressed and glamorously groomed, her head always held high and she was comfortably smiling toward the camera. I admired her enthusiasm for cultivating and cherishing these friendships that stretched back over many years.
I also witnessed through the window of social media how my friend savoured each and every tiny detail of life and living. She never missed a golden rainbow, a bright sunrise, a serene sunset, nor a heart breakingly beautiful field of Texas bluebonnets.
The playwright William Soroyan, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning drama, The Time of Your Life, wrote the lines that I believe epitomize the unique spirit of my friend. These lines are recited in the play by Joe, a chracter who looks after his friends with great compassion.
“In the time of your life, live—so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed.
Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are the things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart.
Be the inferior of no man, or of any men be superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man’s guilt is not yours, nor is any man’s innocence a thing apart. Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand. Have no shame in being kindly and gentle but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret.
In the time of your life, live—so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”
Whilst we were in high school together, I appeared in the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. This drama’s universal description of human life has resulted in it being one of the most frequently produced plays in the world. In the closing scene, a young mother has died in child birth and returns briefly to earth to speak to the play’s stage manager.
“EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”
STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”
My friend certainly would have been included in the rare company of saints and poets that the Stage Manager describes above.
In another play, Patrick Dennis, the author of “Auntie Mame, An Irreverant Escapade” wrote this wonderful line for the lead character Mame Dennis and I believe it incapsulates the life of my friend.
“Life is a banquet and most poor bastards are starving to death!”
Her life was a very delicious banquet that she expertly orchestrated and joyfully included many friends, including myself.
My long time friend, sadly and suddenly died alone in her home this week. Her body was discovered by high school friends who went to her home to check on her well being.
Though she is now gone from earth and to my great disappointment, from her daily delightful posting on face book, I know that she is now hosting an eternal banquet and that I and many others are very grateful indeed for the amazing feast of friendship she left for all of us to remember and enjoy all the remaining days of our lives.
Rest in Peace beautiful Suzy Bangs.