How It All Began

I’m at the age now where I’m starting to lose people, and I’m taking it hard. I just got a message from a friend on the island, telling me that my old friend Sally had died. She was about 88 or so, and had been in really poor health lately, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. But still.

Sally and I were connected in the oddest and most profound of ways. When Shel and I were thinking of moving to the island, back in 2000, we stayed in a B&B while we were looking around. And that was Sally’s B&B, and her Alabama drawl led us to discover that Sally and Shel’s mother Margaret had known each other in Auburn, Alabama, long before Shel was born. That was mind-boggling to all of us, and caused Shel to say “I can’t go anywhere without my Mom finding out about it!”

And it happened that in that B&B was a newspaper article about a writer’s group on the island. As it turned out, the article was there because that was Sally’s writing group, and it would be meeting the very next day. I’d never written, but thought I might like to, and so she invited me to join them. I enjoyed that afternoon so much that I became a member of that group, and for years we wrote faithfully together once a week.

One thing that happened as a result is that I became a writer, bit by bit. I started in that group, then dared to write here, on French Letters, and then started writing for magazines. And now I have a job where my title is Writer in Residence, and I owe all that to Sally.

The other thing that happened is that as soon as I heard about Sally I immediately thought that I had to tell Shel, because he always remained  floored that Sally and Margaret had known each other, and because she was our first friend on the island. And I was thinking that Shel would have wanted to tell Margaret about Sally’s passing, because even though they’d lost touch, there was still that connection.

But then I realized that there is no one left to tell. That story was entirely about people who are now gone from this life, first Margaret, then Shel, and now Sally. Somehow I’m left being the keeper of the story, even though so much of it belonged to them.

So now I’m telling you about it, so that these stories do not fade away forever, and so that the memories springing from that momentous coincidence, what my own mother would have called a fortuitous concourse of circumstance, have a place to live on.

What kind of story is it where all the main characters die at the end? It’s the story of life.

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11 Comments on “How It All Began”

  1. Henk and Greta Says:

    Love the last sentence! Ever so true! Sorry about Sally, but so nice reading that you have shared an important part of your life. She did a good job stirring up your talents for writing. She was damn right to do so. Keep on going.
    Lots of love

  2. Jen Riebow Says:

    It is amazing how the world turns and how small this world really is. My deepest sympathies for your loss. It sounds like you have so many loving memories to forever hold in your heart.

  3. Marcy Buchan Says:

    Keep on writing these vignettes as I find them so meaningful. I still keep in touch with Barbara Jacquin my long time friend from our Foreign Service days. She is retired in Uzes, France. Believe she is the one who introduced me you.


  4. Enjoyed reading this, but so sad too when we loose good friends.

  5. Catanea Says:

    Thank-you for sharing with us. Somehow I imagined you had been a writer for more decades than you have. These things are important. Will the internet last? Write them in a letter or two, too. On paper (vellum being expensive). Surely there are some neices, nephews, cousins…for the human record.

  6. Dakari Wikkeling Says:

    Yes Abra we are that age. In January of this year I lost my aunt, dad, one of my oldest friends and a cousin..Another friend is in hospice, and yet another has stage 4 lung cancer-,!, I wrote two eulogies which helps me process the loss.

  7. Abra Bennett Says:

    Dakari – that is WAY too much for such a short timeframe. My condolences!

  8. Susan Says:

    Oh I just adored Sally! For so many years I read her column in the Review and then had the pleasure of serving on the paper’s editorial board with her for many years. The board’s monthly lunches were so delightful–Sally’s accent and way of speaking (and listening) always reminded me of my Gramms in South Carolina. Lovely to hear your story, Abra. I’m sad to learn that Sally is no longer with us.

  9. Susan Says:

    And I forgot to mention how much I love her art–I have one of her pieces–it’s a mother hen and her chicks. One of my favorites–loved that she drew with a Mac–she was a pioneer.

  10. kim leatham Says:

    the tapestry continues to be woven – what beautiful threads and portions of your tapestry these are. You are a gifted writer!

  11. Annette Isaksen Says:

    What a beautiful description of how Sally impacted the lives of those she met! She listened intently and generously gave her intelligence and wit encouraging the gifts of others. I was very blessed to know her the last few months of her life!


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