My friend Sandy was a rare and special person. With her cheeky smile and infectious laugh, her joie de vivre, tireless desire to work hard so she could keep saving for her retirement and travel the world—often on foot, she loved to hike—she really was a tour de force.
I don’t know exactly how old she was—and honestly, it never mattered, because she was so youthful in her outlook. She had a married grown-up son, of whom she was ever-proud. Whenever possible she would travel to Europe with him and his wife, and it wasn’t unusual for her to be heading to our local hilly park, Helen Putnam, to hike non-stop for 4-5 hours to prepare herself for a grueling multi-day hike across European mountain ranges. All this, despite a troublesome knee and a prior bout with cancer. She wasn’t going to be stopped from following her heart’s desire.
It is with great sadness that I write of her in the past tense. Her bright light was dimmed a few days ago after a long fight with cancer. And boy, did she give it her all. Ever hopeful that she would beat it off, and get back to her work and travels, she tried many avenues. But my story isn’t about her fight. It’s to honor the wonderful, kind, spirited woman that she was.
I met Sandy in 2011 when I founded my first business and needed a bookkeeper. I initially met with another candidate—who did nothing but chide me for an hour about my poor use of Quicken—and I quickly realized this wasn’t someone I was going to trust with my most personal financial information. Luckily, a friend suggested I get in touch with Sandy.
We spoke on the phone, and she said she’d come and meet me at my home in San Francisco, but warned me that she was about to stop seeing clients in the city because it meant being away from home. Where do you live? I enquired. “Petaluma,” came the reply. Right then I knew we were meant to get to know each other. Just a couple of weeks earlier I had decided to make the move north to Petaluma and was in the process of completing real estate transactions.
So, amongst the packing boxes, and with black Labradors – Hector and Electra – at our feet, we started our work together. It turned out, that she was just as passionate about black Labs as I, and had two of her own at home. We bonded quickly and she patiently taught me a ton about how to successfully manage my business. You have to really trust someone to open up every aspect of your financial life to them, and I trusted her implicitly. It’s a rare sort of intimacy.
After I had made the big move across the Golden Gate bridge, she would come and work at my house for half a day, every few weeks. Kept company by my Labs, in between our work we’d chat about everything from Monkey’s progress at school, to which stocks to buy (she was very savvy), and where to travel to next. She was always supportive and encouraging. She had a pragmatic common-sense and often talked me off the ledge when I was unable to see a clear path forward when faced with a problem.
When my darling Hector became ill four years ago, she visited both he and I frequently – checking in on both of us and guiding me through the difficult decision of when to say goodbye. She had been through it herself with her own four-legged friends and was compassionate and again, pragmatic. She pointed out that even though Hector couldn’t get up and follow me anymore, his eyes still tracked me everywhere I went. She said, “you can just tell how much he loves you.” I was so grateful to her for pointing that out.
After I lost Hector, I wanted to take her for dinner to say thank you, and for one reason or another, we were both busy and it never happened. It seems so silly now that we couldn’t find a date to have a meal together, and I find myself wishing I had made more time to see her in the last few months.
When I adopted Tank, she followed his whole journey with us too. As a foster of Labs herself, she was ever entertained by his antics and troubled by his health issues. I clearly remember one day when she was working at our house and Monkey and I had to leave for a while. We came back to find Sandy shaking her head and telling me that I owed her one. “How so?” I asked. She explained that Tank had thrown up something vile when we were out. She had cleaned it up to stop him eating it again (yuck!), but kept the specimen in a bag for us, because she was convinced it was a reptile of some kind!
With a mixture of gratitude, disgust and surprise, I asked her to show me the bag. And sure enough there was a black, spiny, lizard-looking thing. I was just about to throw it out, and try to contemplate the insanity of Labs who eat literally anything, when Monkey exclaimed, “That’s not a lizard, that’s my SOCK!” And boy, did we all have a good belly laugh about that one, at the expense of Sandy’s eyesight. It was classic Sandy: kindness, compassion, pragmatism and humor, all-in-one.
I feel so blessed that I had one last visit with dear Sandy a week ago. We chatted about the latest things going on with me and Monkey, she laughed as ever, and I showed her a video of the dogs. I think we both knew it was goodbye, but it turns out it’s very hard to say that when the time comes. I told her I loved her, and she told me the same, and we both had tears in our eyes when we I had to go.
I asked her son where she wanted to travel next, and he told me that Paris was always her favorite destination. That she was always so at ease there. So, in her honor, I will be sure to make it to Paris – The City of Lights – in the coming months and raise a glass to my wonderful friend who taught me so much, about so many things. Really, more than she could ever imagine. I don’t know how she’d feel about me writing about her, probably a little embarrassed, but also touched. She always read my posts.
Treasure your friends, make time for that dinner, and remember life is short, Be sure to make it sweet.