Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

July 26, 2010

All My Friends, They Died

"Thayer Graves died in May," my mom tells me. "WHAT?!" I roared into the phone. "How can that be? She is one of my Facebook friends! Adam is one of my Facebook friends!" Mom tells me that she saw the obituary and had cut it out, meaning to send it to me. I said, "No, that can't be right." While on the phone with mom, I went to Thayer's Facebook page, only to find it filled with "I will miss you" Wall posts. Incredulous, I went to Adam's page and kept scrolling to his older posts till I finally found his status from May 18, saying that his little sister had died. I shot off a quick email to fellow childhood friends Renee & Lisa, letting them know (we all rode the bus together with the Graves kids), and Renee located and sent me a copy of Thayer's obit. She died of breast cancer at the age of 42. My mom told me that she recalled that Mrs. Graves had died very young too.

Thayer was an adorable, freckle faced sprite of a tomboy. I guess being the youngest of 4, and the only girl, she had to be scrappy and tough. I found out that she served in the US Navy after she graduated from high school, and then attended UC Berkeley, in my old stomping grounds in the Bay Area. I snagged this photo of her off her Facebook page, but I can still see the little girl that I played with after school and in the summer.

How did I not see Adam's status that day? While I'm not on Facebook near as much as I was a year ago, I am on it every night. Last year when I finally located Adam and Thayer, I was so excited. They lived across the street from me from the summer of 1975 to early 1979. It was a novelty for me to have children my age right across the street, and I quickly made friends with them. Thayer had just finished 2nd grade, Adam finished 3rd and I had just finished 5th grade, the summer they moved in. They also had 2 other brothers, Phillip (4th grade) and Steven (7th grade), but I was definitely closer with Adam and Thayer. My memories of them are riding bikes on our street and at the cranberry bog, skateboarding, climbing trees, playing in the barn on their property - including jumping out of the loft onto stacked mattresses - and how their goat, Gretchen, and horse, Chips, used to wander out of the yard every afternoon, come up to my house and snack on my mom's flower beds. Here's Chips in my backyard in 1978.

We lost touch after they moved in 1979, but I located them on Facebook and it was great to catch up and see what they are doing now, and what they look like as adults. Thayer didn't log on that much, so it was not unusual for her not to post any statuses. What is killing me is how I didn't see Adam's status in May when she died.

And speaking of Facebook, I am back in touch with my bff from elementary school, Pam. We've been chatting regularly over the last couple of months with lengthy emails and we chatted on the phone last week. She broke the news to me that our old friend Terry Friedeborn died in June, 2009. I was devastated. I have been searching for Terry, and Pam, ever since we got the internet. I never got a hit on their names, and didn't know if they'd married or what those names are. Terry and Pam had reconnected on My Space a few years ago. I kept hoping that Terry, or at least one of her sisters, would show up on Facebook. I was able to friend Terry's daughter on Facebook, and was able to view the memorial slideshow that was made for Terry's funeral last year. Apparently, Terry had battled breast cancer a few years ago and was in remission, till it came back full force and riddled her entire body with the disease. Terry and I met in 2nd grade. I remember ice skating with her on Shawme Pond before the rink was built in Bourne. We played together at recess and sat together in the school cafeteria.

Our 2nd grade picture. Terry is in the front row, second from the left, in her Blue Birds uniform.

Terry is in the front row, 2nd from the right, in our 3rd grade pic.
Our 4th grade year was my fave with Terry, and our friends Kevin & Donald. The 4 of us sat together all year. One time, Terry brought her transistor radio and hid it in her desk, but had the top open a little so that we could hear WRKO. Our teacher, Mrs. Celata, busted her but we didn't get in too much trouble for it. Terry's in the front row, far right. Kevin is standing right behind her, and Donald is in the top row, 2nd from right w/ his head tilted.
But as with everything, once we got to Junior High, kids who were bffs at the Wing School were now thrown into classes w/ other kids, staggered lunch periods and no recess, so friendships evolved and changed. Terry ended up transferring to the vocational school in Sagamore in 9th grade, and she had a baby in the 10th grade. The last time I saw her, Terry brought her baby to Sandwich High sometime in 11th or 12th grade, to visit her old friends and teachers. It was awkward of course; she was a 17 year old mother, I was a 17 year old heading to college. Her days were filled with baby stuff, my days were filled with high school stuff. I hadn't talked to her in 3 years, and to a teenager, 3 years is a loooooong time. We were friendly, at least I thought I was but it always struck me that she had hardened somehow and she seemed standoffish, maybe expecting me to be judgmental or something. I just remember it as a very awkward and mercifully brief reunion. Of course now I see why she would have felt that way. Not many girls got pregnant in our high school back in those days (I can only think of 3, and all were in my class) and it there was still a lingering stigma to it, mostly perpetuated by townspeople my parents' age.

Finally, it seems that a third friend of mine and Brian's died, in 2006!!! Again, I cannot believe that I didn't know about it, but I googled his name & state today, "Russell Lane, Missouri" and found some posting on a health care reform website written by a guy who said that his best friend Russell Lane died at age 34, because he didn't have health insurance and couldn't get the necessary testing he needed to stave off the impending heart attack, which is how he died after throwing a clot that was in his lungs. The posting said he was a house painter and I am almost certain that's what our Russell was doing.

We used to write to Russ throughout the 90's. He was a Deadhead like us, and back then we used to correspond and trade tapes w/ Deadheads from all over the country. We developed a close friendship w/ Russ through our frequent and long letters. Unfortunately, when we moved up here and made the transition to email, Russ admitted that he had no use for computers, and so our correspondence grew few and far between before finally ending about 8 years ago. Doing the math, the Russ Lane mentioned on that website would have been in his early 20's in the early 1990's, and that sounds about right, b/c he was several years younger than me. I next checked the Social Security Death Index, and located a Russell Lane, born in 1972 and died in 2006, from Springfield, MO. That's where he was from. I am hoping upon hope that it's just someone else from the same area, with the same name, and the same age. But I have a sinking feeling that it's our Russ.

This again begs the question: Why am I the last person to keep finding out about this stuff? Would it make it easier to find out at the time? Probably not, but at least I could have passed along my condolences in a timely fashion. Plus it makes me feel like I'm so self absorbed that I don't even check my friends' Facebook statuses, but in my defense, with 540+ Facebook friends, only so much stuff ends up on my Newsfeed. OK, it's not really my fault that I didn't know that Terry and Russ passed away, but I do regret not trying harder to find Terry and not keeping up correspondence with Russ.

What is even more distressing to me is that Russ, Terry & Thayer were so very young. Russ was 34. Terry was 45. Thayer was 42. My classmate, Greg, who passed away in June, was 46. Is this what the future is going to bring for the next decade or so? All of my friends passing away long before their time?

If ever there was a lesson in 'Carpe Diem', this is it.


  1. That sucks Jojo...all of it.For me,Thayer especially sucks.Fucking breast cancer.The is the age that people need to be aware are diagnosed all the time and lose their fight because it is so much more aggressive.

    I'm sorry to hear about your loss of all these friends.It's terrible.I understand about being that last to know-I am too!

  2. Whoa. I'm really sorry about this.

    It's so very very odd how our worlds loosely parallel. I often find myself reading your posts and going "NO WAY" because something similar has happened or is happening to me.

    You sent me your email address. I will email you, and maybe we can lean on each other a bit.
    My thoughts are with you.
    peace, pf

  3. Im sorry to read about your multiple lost friends. I love how you have such distinct memories of each to share with us. I also love your scanned grade school photos. I wonder where mine all are ... Your lesson is a smart one tho, and one we should all follow.

    Thanks, as always, for the kind comments on my blog. The flow of the water is captured with a slightly longer exposure time. A technique I am slowly trying to master ;)

  4. I'm sad for you, JoJo. I know what a shock it is to lose members of your own generation so young. Makes you consider your own mortality, too.

    We are all supposed to live longer now. Our retirement ages are being raised, because we have the expectation of having more years of good health for our retirement. I think they've got it wrong, we don't take care of ourselves, we pollute the planet which must cause more cancers. I have this very bad feeling that life expectancy will plummet when the wartime generation is gone.

  5. Thanks guys. It really does make me think about my own mortality. I look back on the last 20 years and I can't believe how fast the time has gone. There's so much I want to do and see; so much I thought I would have done by now and haven't. Everyone says, 'oh you have plenty of time!' But do I? Time ran out for my friends way too soon.

  6. oh jojo - oh dear - all so young - it's so sad

  7. Anonymous4:30 PM

    It's a scary thing, isn't it? You spend so much time with these "kids" growing up and going to school with them. And, when something like this happens, it just knocks you for a loop. I had a brother of a friend call me a few years back and let me know that his sister (my childhood friend since kindergarten), his brother and mother all had passed away within months and a couple of years of each other. My friend was just 40 and her brother was younger. It still grips me to this day. My thoughts are with you, JoJo...keep climbing those mountains and enjoying your beautiful scenery there...make memories.

  8. It seems that these things happen more often as we grow older. I've heard of several friends I worked with back in Hawaii radio have passed on. It floors me when it's someone younger than me.

    I'm sorry to hear that your friend died so young.