Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Leslie’s driveway was lined with so many vehicles it looked a wedding, or at least a blowout party. When, having arrived from another time zone, I walked down the gravel at 9 a.m. on Saturday, the 27-foot moving van was already two-thirds full.
“Now you get here!” yelled John, handing a chair up the gangway to David, who was planted in the van as organizer, both grinning. John had been in my class in high school, David a year ahead.
I stepped in the front door to find the living room startlingly empty, but the scene dizzying. Over 30 people were packing, lifting, carrying, rolling, taping, directing. Some had driven to Annapolis from two and three hours away. A dozen more would stop by throughout the day to help or bring food or armloads of flowers.
The full van pulled out at 10:30, and by early afternoon Leslie was completely installed in her new house: her possessions carried in, every box unpacked, every picture and mirror hung, and the kitchen organized.
For me it was a sudden and somewhat disorienting reunion, seeing so many friends from our aggregate past: Hans, Meg, Brian, Chris, Diana, Vickie. But this was even more meaningful than a normal reunion. For over three years Leslie has been fighting advanced breast cancer. Recently, perhaps seeing life with extra clarity, she decided to leave her husband. Dozens of friends were there for her, having wanted to help in any way they could, now eager to move her to a better situation.
“That was solid,” Leslie’s new neighbor Jake told me wide-eyed the next day. “I thought I should help. But I thought I would get in the way.”
“That was an army,” another neighbor, Christina, told me. “And they all looked so happy.”
I have known Leslie since we were in ninth grade together in Annapolis, through all the highs and lows of our teenage years. We still laugh about the parties, about how the police came to two that I threw (one with my parents’ permission, one without) and to the one Molly held at her uncle’s tobacco barn in southern Maryland. When they asked if she had his permission, Molly said coolly, “Go ask him.”
Leslie was one of my closest friends all through high school, but she meant the same to Molly and Clem, and later would to my cousin Debra. When I heard Leslie was moving out, I cashed in some airline miles.
The first day four of us, led by Molly, hauled out all Leslie’s clothes and packaged her artwork. Molly, who had also packed for five hours the day before, took notes in a composition book filled with lists and room diagrams.
“I couldn’t have done it without Molly,” Leslie told me.
I was seeing a testament to a life well-lived by a sunny, generous, engaged person who drew others in. I remember my mother once saying, “Life for Leslie will be a bowl of cherries.” Yet Leslie was also capable of running an advertising publication and overseeing 20 employees.
She moved from a house 15 minutes outside of town to a central townhouse, five minutes away from Molly and from the office of Clem (who has given Leslie acupuncture since the illness, never charging), and less than 10 from her mother and sister. She is away from a bad situation, and because of her terminal diagnosis has full custody of her young daughter. I called the next morning, and asked how she felt waking up in her new house. She said, “Blissful.”
I spent four comfortable and constructive days with Leslie. They were quiet days, staying at my mother’s, and I only remembered the outside world and its glamour on the last night, when I heard from my brother in Indonesia, welcoming President Obama on a state visit, and saw a Facebook posting from a friend at home in Colorado who had just done the hardest climb of his life. Yet I knew there was nowhere else I’d rather have been.
– Alison Osius lives in Carbondale. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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