Thank you for the gift of friendship: Goodbye, Christianne
This post is an extended version of an email I sent out today to the wonderful women of Second Saturdays. The notes I got back as replies made me think I should post this and give them the chance to add to it, if they want to.
First, the saddest thing I've had to type in a long time: The memorial service for Christianne Sharman is this Saturday, Jan. 30, 4pm at Millwood Presbyterian.
Many of us knew and loved Chrissie. It is just SHITTY (there is no other word for it—good thing Mom isn’t on the Internet to watch my language) that she is gone. She was such a strong and beautiful woman who taught me things without even knowing she did.
I miss her.
She never knew that she herself was the inspiration for Second Saturdays, the “grownup friendship space” I’ve blogged about. I should have told her this story when I could.
I had been meeting all these great women in various circles and wishing I could get to know them better, but never really doing anything about it. I got to know Chrissie a bit thanks to suggesting her as a possible board member for what was then the Spokane PR Council (now the Spokane Regional MarComm Association).
(I don't know if she ever knew THAT, either--that I was the one who suggested her for the board--not sure she would have thanked me since she ended up being the treasurer, which is always a thankless job in any small all-volunteer board :D).
I was so impressed with her and wanted to get to know her better, but didn't have a way to do that because we were all so busy being board members when we met.
So I sent out that first email suggesting the idea that we need to schedule girlfriend time--not just with people who are our friends now, but with people who might be great friends if we had the time to get to know each other. I went through my contact list and picked lots of wonderful women I encountered in professional circles.
We have so few playgrounds in our adult lives that it's tough to get to know someone at the swingset or teeter-totter level. Hence that first gathering at Rockwood Bakery years ago.
I don't even know how many years ago now, but others who were there at the beginning think we may have started in 1999. Over ten years? I believe it.
At the same time, thinking about how quickly those years have flown, I realize all over again how easy it is to lose track of time, to forget to say the things you need to say and to see your friends because calendars get full.
Why didn’t I just call her up and see if she wanted to have coffee? Well, I was shy. (Insert maniacal laughter here from people who know me.) But I was.
She was so strong, and so very clear about her boundaries. That had already come through in our board meetings, where she was polite and firm about what she would and would not take on as a board member. If she declined the coffee I would never know if she didn’t have time, or wasn’t really interested in getting to know me beyond our contact as board members. She would be too kind to hurt my feelings.
It sounds so funny to me now, all these years later after having the privilege of her friendship. But back then it was kind of like giving a party in high school to which you invite the guy or girl you secretly like.
You hope he/she won’t end up hooking up with your best friend at the party. You hope you’ll have a long and meaningful talk in somewhat dim lighting, planting the seeds for something that blossoms over time. Having other people around provides a social buffer so you’re not left hanging while your heart gets broken.
Okay, now I’m really taking dramatic license. But I do remember feeling slightly (or more than slightly) intimidated and at the same time hopeful that I was about to make a new and fantastic friend in Christianne, along with all the other great women of Second Saturdays.
It worked. We did form those friendships. No dim lighting, just great coffee and pastries and conversation. And Chrissie, with her beautiful long hair, scarves draped carelessly around her neck in that effortless way that magazine stylists strive to imitate, such a style and strength and kindness, all that warmth and encouragement, funny, wry insights and indignation about crazy/bad politics and focused listening so you knew she really heard what you said.
I still hear her voice.
Thank you, Chrissie, for all your gifts to me as your friend.