“The Stony Limits Do Not Hold Love Out…”

Two weeks ago two friends went shopping. They had formed a bond around this happening 20-years ago when they first met. Back when they shopped for treasures on their college budgets in unexpected places. What they found was inconsequential. It only served as goalposts of their time together. This ritual provided a space where they shared conversation, laughter, ideas, each punctuated by the “shzing” of hangers sliding across racks and calls from the next aisle to “checkout” the discovery. Value City and local thrift stores were the inauspicious places they found these looked-over gems or rock bottom remainders that no one had recognized for what they were.  Those shopping trips were the comfortable dance to all the best songs they played over and over and over.

The girls are now women; mothers, wives and professionals.  They don’t have to reach too far down to find the college girls they once were together. Both have managed to keep that self close by. So when they see each other no matter how much time has passed since the last visit, they find the understanding and love easily accessible, below the skin nuanced by the years they’ve lived since. And as they shopped two weeks ago, they fell into the grooves established decades prior. Though this time it was different. This time they both provided more than memories and a comfort of a shared history. This time they needed each other for physical support as they went through the motions of their historic ritual.  While one endures the disease she’s had since they first met, the other faces a new, more challenging diagnosis that shakes the ground they have always felt secure on.

• • •

Finding a way to absorb the reality of Linda’s cancer has left me immobilized… yet flailing. I’m desperately trying to get my arms around all that she is and what she means in my life. As the weeks have passed I have found the place deep inside that only she can touch and I’ve rested there. Within that space has come an outpouring of emotion and words in an unstoppable flow. It’s the soundtrack of our 20-year friendship – a melodic hum that exists beneath everything. And while my feelings are often beyond description, I am taking this time to honor her and what we share. I know it will empower me from now on as I continue to read and reflect on this most remarkable friendship.

So here goes…

I met Linda P. a few months after my MS diagnosis. Tumultuous is not a strong enough term to describe the few years leading up to the Fall of 1988.  In short, my parent’s sudden divorce and my mom’s move to Florida led me in desperation to an abusive boyfriend. Escaping that, I moved to Maryland to attend the state university at College Park and after three semesters, I transferred to a different campus in search of a something more meaningful both academically and personally. I was getting used to making these big decisions on my own.

That summer before I started at the new campus began with my 20th birthday and the out-of-nowhere diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. It was a shocking blow to my fragile and forced independence. But in spite of my fear, I continued on by myself looking for a community to be a part of while finishing my film degree. Just a few weeks after I moved to the Baltimore suburbs and started at the UMBC film program, I found a group of people who felt good to be around. Just as the cream rises to the surface, so did Linda. It quickly became clear that we had something special. You know how sometimes you meet someone and they match you in ways you didn’t know possible? Well that was how it was with Linda. And as I search for descriptors to convey all that we have, I get lost in the reverie of everyday moments and how it felt back then to have her energy with me all the time.

Trying to describe a friendship in words is not unlike trying to sing a painting.  I’m not sure if it was her spirited way of appreciating every moment that drew me in or her adorable personality.  At this time, making new friends and meeting new people wasn’t easy. I was unsure and nervous about what MS would mean for me and this seemed transparent in my insecure presence.  Many people couldn’t deal with this uncertain reality of mine and were obvious in their apprehension. But Linda never shied away. She clearly accepted every part of who I was in ways I could not yet do for myself. She gave new meaning and comfort to my world.

This girl came into my life at a time when I had no one and needed someone more than ever. She made me laugh and find myself again while I was starting over. Her talent knows no end, though she turns the other way when you recognize this. This allowed me to find myself. To find my artist’s voice in ways I could not have with a friend who absorbed attention.

So as I was finding my new identity with MS, whatever that meant, Linda helped me. She unknowingly pointed out what needed notice and dismissed what didn’t deserve attention. In my new life at 20 years old, I had no map or guide, no hope that most are traveling with at this point in their journey. And while the scar pattern had just begun to mar my brain, Linda was there to fill the in-between with laughter, color and song. And just as those scars still remain, so does what Linda has given to me all of those years ago and now. She helped me find myself, the someone beyond the diagnosis.

• • •

I’ve always felt that the kind of bond students can find in an art department is completely different than other courses of study. As we explored deeper feeling to express in our art we found places within that touch our core. Finding these hidden archives of inspiration in our separate yet connected form (film & photo), we helped move the creative processes forward in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise. We were irretrievably linked this way. As I was learning my own voice and worth, she instilled confidence in me that was of an immeasurable value. It has impacted me from that point on in both how I see the world and how I live in it. No matter what my limitations were or would be, I found value in my sense of self I had never known before.

What was new to me then, this creative self, was an unbreakable thread in our friendship over these two decades.  Her mere presence inspires me and encourages me to back-up and simplify whatever I’m laboring over. Speculation and evaluation have always been my specialty, though sometimes my undoing, and her response helped me refocus on what was important.  And while I had my own energy, humor and artistic interpretation… together we found something bigger.

• • •

Throughout the years since we both left Baltimore she continued to touch my life. Her relocation to Orlando and my ultimate move to Miami kept us within driving distance.  During those years we took that trip often.  She thought nothing of hopping in the car and driving 4 hours to see me. She lent her support as I struggled with my increased MS symptoms and attacks that were becoming more regular in this time before any disease modifying drugs existed.  She always provided simple responses to my complicated feelings that allowed me to refocus, without the fog that made it hard to see; all punctuated by her adorable self. She made my wedding dress and sewed the chuppah that she held during the ceremony. Although our tangible presence in each others lives had the ebb and flow that comes with adult life, she was always there.

When she changed her career and became a nurse it astounded me how one person could be so richly diverse. As an artist, she is a creator that brought new life and interpretation to everything she touched. As a nurse she combined her energy together with her new wisdom and gave it to those who are at the most challenging place, found only in a hospital bed.  What she helped me find 20 years ago in my new self with MS, she was bringing to the masses at Mass General. A role that comes naturally with the dedication and knowledge she applies with little effort.  And with the geography that separates New Jersey from Massachusetts we continue to be close with our ability to communicate and touch no matter how we are separated in time or space, recharging each other in ways that only two friends who have shared a 20-year-love can.

There is so much that I haven’t even begun to explain; our families, our children, our struggles and accomplishments. All of which live in the copious notes I have typed without noticing the keys. And so they sit in front of a glow of the screen; the words containing scenarios, that on their own seem inconsequential, but together are the recipe for the greatest friendship in this known world.

I sigh and breath deeply. Knowing that in one place I can go to see evidence of what will always be and will need no reminding. And as my mind takes me to a place of miracles and hope, I am back in the shopping mode. Yelling across the aisles to Linda the meaningless words of what was found underscored by what will always be.

Thank you dear Linda Park. And stop shaking your head saying that I made all this up. I have the documents that prove it if you don’t believe me.  🙂

I love you and will always have that embedded in who I am… forever more.

• • •

Linda passed on December 4th, 2009. As I type the words I still can’t believe it to be true. Through my tears, I know she will live on forever in my heart and mind.

Amy and Linda 2009 Boston (near!)

Amy and Linda - 2009 - just outside Boston

Amy and Linda - 1989 in Baltimore

Amy and Linda - 1989 - just outside Baltimore

29 thoughts on ““The Stony Limits Do Not Hold Love Out…”

  1. Mitch says:

    Your writing here is wonderful Amy, it is as special as your friendship with Linda.

  2. Darline says:

    WOW! I knew this would be worth the wait and that you would pull off the seemingly impossible, condensing a 20 year long friendship into an essay that would truly do you, Linda and your unique friendship justice. Congratulations Amy! Your being in full absorption mode since before your visit with Linda has really paid off. This love- filled homage is sincere, thoughtful, insightful and inspiring to all of us who aspire to develop or maintain the type of friendship that exists between you and Linda. This is truly a masterpiece!

    • aglol says:

      Thanks Darline for your support through this process in ways that would shock anyone if they knew we have never met and have only been corresponding for a little over a month. Your interpretations of my writing and your support of my life’s happenings have quickly become priceless. I look forward to our ongoing friendship. ~Ag

  3. aglol says:

    This comment is from Linda. I should mention that when she called and I told her I was working on this essay, she said “Make sure you tell everyone I’m beautiful!” Hence the quotes~

    Amy
    Thank you for such beautiful prose. “beautiful” being the key word (hee heee) I wish i were as eloquent a writer and conversationalist as you- Here goes…. You are my most beautiful best friend and I love you too.
    Linda

    Of course I pointed out that if I had half the talents she had, I would be the second most amazing person in the world~ 😉
    ag

  4. Connie Nichols says:

    Amy, this is a beautiful tribute to a friendship that is rare, indeed. Bless you both, and may Linda prevail against cancer may there be a cure found for MS SOON!

  5. Norm says:

    Amy —

    …ever so touching … if only everyone could have such a friend! In everything you say here (so beautifully spiritual), the two poignant sentences that summed it all up best came early on before all your warm remembrances:
    “I’m desperately trying to get my arms around all that she is and what she means in my life. As the weeks have passed I have found the place deep inside that only she can touch and I’ve rested there.”

    I also just loved the two retrospective pictures i tandem — just perfectly beautiful.

    My love to you both — stay entwined.

    Norm

    • aglol says:

      Thanks Norm, Your response to this is so significant to me. It just adds to the healing power of writing… I will reread it regularly as I long to feel close to Linda~ xo ag

  6. Sonya says:

    I am glad you finally put this in writing. I hope you are finding comfort in this piece like you said you would. My prayers are with you and Linda.

    Sonya

  7. Lori says:

    Amy – this is a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you.

    • aglol says:

      Thanks for reading and the kind words. As always, writing is a very cathartic process for me… and the rereading goes on forever~ All the best to you. ag

  8. Julie Margolis says:

    Amy – what a beautiful tribute to an obviously indescribable relationship. I am so glad that linda was there for you during such a troubling and transformational time. I am also certain that, just as she has touched and shaped you and been a huge part of your becoming you, you too have been that for her. You are both extremely lucky to have a relationship like this and no matter what health concerns and other things life throws your way, you will always be bonded together. I salute your friendship with a song in my heart (and a glass of red wine in hand) xxx

    • aglol says:

      Julie, Thanks for your lovely words. Everyone’s response to this writing extends its power- increases its healing, and reignites my love and appreciation for my magnificent friendship with Linda. xo amy

  9. Marget says:

    Amy,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful and beautifully written piece in celebration of your bond with Linda.
    Marget

  10. John Conner says:

    I like the web page and wanted to say thanks Amy happy you let me know about wordpress.com I will be back !!!!!!!!!!

    John Conner of AJ Foto

  11. Norm says:

    …you know — reading the comments others is an additional testimonial to how your Linda-connection is affecting others as if you have tossed a very special rock into a calm lake that is sending ripples out in an infinite journey to the shore — touching all of us ..

    thanks to both you — you are special!

    Norm

  12. […] is stunning. And of course she does not recognize this. (Wait a minute… this reminds me of someone… ) She gives new meaning to the word creative and it explodes all around her. When I was […]

  13. Jill says:

    Hi Sweetie,

    I am so very touched by the story of Amy and Linda, and the photos too. I love the words you choose in your musings… often surprisingly fun and always poignant.

    How lucky you two are to have found each other and to be journeying together 20 years later. Linda will forever be in your heart, soul, spirit – and in the way you approach life. What a gift.

    My Love Always,
    Jill

  14. LisaPinCT says:

    Just beautiful. While reading this, I feel so many emotions, and I don’t know you at all. Beautiful writing, truly from the heart. We should all be so lucky, fortunate & blessed in our lives as you are, to have had such a deep friendship with someone. Hoping these and all of your memories of your friend bring you some comfort at this most difficult time.

  15. […] other to be safe in the world and stable on the ground. Reminding me of the very recent memory of two dear friends who came to rely on each other in just that […]

  16. Julie Margolis says:

    Wow – as I re-read this, I once again have a glass of red wine in my hand. Seriously, there are even more lovely nuances in this second read. Most people dont get to have a friend like that. You are lucky. xx

  17. Mike M says:

    It’s difficult losing someone who is close to you, but losing someone who really “sees” you is tragic. A lovely tribute to your friend.

    • aglol says:

      Thanks Mike~ I appreciate your response. It is the most tragic of losses- rereading this helps me every year on the anniversary of her passing. It feels extra good to know it touches others too. All the best to you and your beautiful family. ~Amy

  18. Cindy sodaro matusek says:

    Can you please tell me if this is the same friend that I had growing up in countryside, Illinois. She started out as yun hee park. Graduated high school in 1984 from Lyons township high school

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