My Friend Rusty

by Kelly from the Path on December 10, 2010

One of the wonderful things about life is that you are never too far along in it to make new friends. I recently made a new friend- at mid-life for me, but Rusty was in the final weeks of her life (although I didn’t know this at the time, looking back; I think she did).

Rusty was the mom (and mother-in-law) of  dear friends of Stewart’s (who subsequently became dear friends of mine). Although I’d never met her, when she became ill and was hospitalized literally down the street from where Stew and I live; I thought it would be a nice gesture to pay her a visit. I thought I would be doing our friends a nice little favor- little did I know that I would be the one to reap the benefit.

A short but meaningful friendship ensued- This lovely woman was charming, interesting, and had a sense of humor to the last, despite her failing health and growing weakness. She reminded me a bit, (just a bit), of my Grandmother, to whom I was very close. She would tell me stories about her service in the Coast Guard, and how pleased she was with her son and daughter-in-law…and how much their love and support meant to her. She and I shared the Redhead Thing in common (albeit she came by it more honestly), and she laughed when I showed her my new pre-deployment pixie and declared myself the Love Child of Peter Pan and Mia Farrow.

I last spoke to Rusty by phone from Fort Benning on Thanksgiving, trying the nurse’s station several times to get through to say my goodbyes the night before I was to head out towards the east. I told her when I got back we would have her for dinner at our new house, so she’d better try really hard to get better and stronger. Days later she was back in the hospital for the final time, and we learned the news from her son last week that she had passed away. I know she was ready. Personally, I would have preferred to continue the friendship for years for my own selfish reasons- but in the end; I am grateful that she passed through my life, however briefly- because she was a gift.

Here is Rusty’s service picture- I have it, along with her biography from her memorial service, hanging in my cube in my office in Iraq, above my desk, to the right and above my head. This way, it appears she is looking down on me. Perhaps she is, in more ways than one.


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