A friend of mine from college days, Martha McGranahan, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last week. Martha was a unique member of a group of strong-willed young women I lived and socialized with over 40 years ago at one of the most rigorous, exclusive top 10 universities in America. We were sassy fearless young women, second wave feminists, gals who helped each other wrangle that difficult passage from childhood to adult as well as build our careers. I remember first bonding with Martha, late one night in the dorm, about how we each hated our first names. There was surely substance abuse involved. Work hard, play hard was our motto. Yet Martha was never mean, always sweet and fun, kind and funky. Martha may have been the purest of the bunch. She marched to the beat of her own drummer, choosing music and arts when we chose business and law. (It was the early ‘80’s, that era of Dress For Success.) I didn’t know her well, but well enough......and I am terribly sad that I won’t get to know her any further. You see, she killed herself.
Martha leaves behind two beautiful daughters, an ex husband all her old friends think is an asshole, a church choir that will never hear her sing again, and a church full of family and friends openly weeping at her funeral. We all questioned ourselves endlessly : What were the signs? What did I miss? I tried to schedule lunch with her awhile back, but had to cancel.....The day she killed herself, Easter Sunday, she carried on as usual, thinking of others, engaged in life and living. Wishing one friend “Happy Birthday.” Going about her business.
Martha and I shared so many interests: arts, the American Southwest and particularly Santa Fe, retro funky fashions and pop culture, and poodles.
I’m going to put this out there, as food for thought : Martha’s passing feels to me like a tragic bookend for the next phase of our lives. I am broken-hearted for her, and for us all. The loss of an old friend. She is the first I’ve heard about from our class who have died; there may be others I have missed. Who will be the last one standing? The other bookend. Yes, funerals are for the survivors, but I believe in the power of ritual, of community, of coming together to mark life’s milestones, good or bad. It’s how we know we are human, by celebrating the memory of a friend, while staving off the darkness of our own demise. Draw the circle ever tighter. My hope is to see as many dear old friends at the memorial as possible. We can convene in a bar afterwards and drink, share memories, laughter and tears. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.