They said we'd look back on our tears and laugh. They never told us that someday we'd look back on our laughter and cry.
I wish I had written that thought. Someone else did. But it captures what I’m feeling with the death last week of my friend, Linda Fanelle.
Throughout her life, Linda helped fill the world with music as a teacher of piano. Her husband, Don, is also a musician, a professional trumpet player.
Linda was more my late wife’s friend than mine. Linda, Jo Anne, and Eileen DiBenedetto were three new wives who became pals when they met more than fifty years ago.
We were newly married couples—Linda and Don, Eileen and Vincent, Jo Anne and Peter—who moved into next-door apartments close by the New Jersey shore.
We all had kids in diapers or training pants, so after we husbands went off to work each day, the three wives got into a routine of morning coffee klatches or afternoons watching soap operas while the toddlers napped.
As with all things, change came.
Eileen and Vincent moved to Philadelphia so he could earn his dental degree from Temple University. Linda and Don relocated to South Jersey, nearer her family in Pennsylvania. I left newspapers to take a job with IBM in the mid-Hudson Valley.
But our families stayed close. Celebrating each Thanksgiving. Vacationing together. The wives’ laugh-laden tour of Italy for three weeks in 1991.
The seven offspring of these three wives grew up so enfolded by their parents' continuing friendship that they refer to us as aunt and uncle—to this day.
Which is why I was drawn up short when Kerryann, Eileen’s eldest and my “niece,” called last week to tell me “Aunt Linda” had died Saturday of congestive heart failure.
Of our tight little friendship circle, the three wives are now dead, leaving us three men—widowers.
Eileen was first, a heart attack in 2002. Then my Jo Anne of breast cancer in 2015. Now, Linda.
We husbands who are left standing—yet floundering—we are left to mutter with Alexander Pope: “Good God! How often are we to die before we go quite off this stage? In every friend we lose a part of ourselves, and the best part.”
(Image: Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington, NJ. My wife’s resting place.)