Love and loss and the price we pay for friendship

Having friends enriches our lives, but it comes with a cost

I’ve been thinking about love and loss and the price we pay for friendship. I try not to dwell, but sometimes my heart will catch on something the way a sleeve catches on a sliver of wood.

Marj Jackson Levin had a long career as a Detroit journalist, writer and activist for equal rights for women. Click on her photo to read her bio in the Jewish Women’s Archives.

It happened earlier this week. Driving home from the dentist, I turned down a side street, then found myself in front of the house where my late friend Marj lived. Marj was a journalist who also alienated a few subjects in her day. She wrote for the Free Detroit Free Press; I, for the competing Detroit News. We attended writers’ conferences together and toasted sunsets on Lake Michigan up north. Dying, she continued to host cocktail hours in her bedroom. In her memory, I still savor vodka with Clamato juice.

There’ve been so many more fabulous dames. Cancer took most of them down, way too soon.

There was Jackie, a sculptor who gave up her practice to open a gallery in the Fisher Building because she thought artists working around the Cass Corridor area of Wayne State U. deserved decent representation. That led to the blockbuster Kick Out the Jams exhibition at the DIA and to greater recognition of talented Detroit creators. Jackie was determined to attend my 40th birthday party, and she did. Her last outing.

There was Bobbye, my first friend, who had an impeccable sense of design, and whose husband, David, I spotted on the same day she did. Bobbye brought me an eyebrow color compact while I was in treatment. Thankfully, my eyebrows returned but I still use the compact. I thank Bobbye whenever I do.

Suzy with Gertrude Kasle. Click the photo to read Suzy’s earlier column about her friend Gertrude.

And Gertrude, a visionary who brought to Detroit artists who became international stars. She lured them to flyover country with a promise to sell at least one painting per show. Often, she sold that one painting to herself. From Gertrude I learned to buy art for love, not investment—an attitude that runs contrary to much of today’s art market.

And Marji, a fashion editor for the Detroit Free Press. When I returned to the D to live, I had trouble finding a job. Marji heard Fairchild Publications was looking for “a man with experience.” She recommended me anyway. I got the position.

And Tavy, wildly creative fashion editor for the Detroit News. She wrote one of my all time favorite bits of fashion commentary on the 1970s fashion trend called “Hot Pants.”

She penned a poem that concluded:
“Unless your legs are perfect joys
Short little pants are for short little boys.”

And Marilyn, a wisecracking, wise friend for all seasons. We watched foreign movies together and, after, shared lettuce cups at the bar of PF Chang. Marilyn and sister Sharon celebrated one New Year’s Eve with us on a snowy hay ride to the new pavilion at our farm.

And another Marjie, hostess and storyteller without peer. She told me the legendary Robert Frost and Ogden Nash joke and patiently went through it with me again while I wrote it down. It remains my best routine.

And Julie—upbeat, farsighted. She saw and fostered Detroit’s cool factor and helped found MOCAD. Her hard work and enthusiasm influenced artists to move to the D.

And Claire and Virginia, brilliant retailers who mentored me when I started writing about fashion.

And, and, and. By myself on a ski slope several years ago, I dedicated each run to a different girlfriend. I ran out of legs before I ran out of friends. As soon as I send this column, a dozen more names will occur. Each time I lose a friend, another hole opens in my heart, which feels like a hunk of Jarlsberg.

Still, considering the laughs and insight, the support, fun and memories—the joy my girlfriends bring me, I’m willing to pay the price.

The Mi Shebeirach, or Jewish prayer of healing, includes this line: “Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.” My girlfriends have been and are a blessing to me. I’m honored to know, and have known, them.

Alfred Lord Tennyson was right. Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.

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21 thoughts on “Love and loss and the price we pay for friendship

  1. Suzy Farbman

    as emailed from Lois Cohn
    I have just finished reading your post about friendship. I have tears in my eyes. Many of the people you wrote about were either dear friends (Marj Levin) or people I knew and admired. Your words about friendship are beautifully written and so meaningful.

    1. Suzy Farbman

      Thanks, Lois. So appreciate your comment. We’ve had quite a run. Grateful for your friendship as well.

  2. Deenie Zonder

    Friendships ARE a blessing !!! A beautiful & heartfelt post ! You are lucky to have all the wonderful memories of these great friends. XOXO

  3. Lynn Buehler

    Beautiful Suzy. Marilyn aka Miss M is missed along with her wit. You are blessed many times over in friendships! I prefer to think that a little piece of each of these friends remains in your heart and matches each beat.

  4. Linda Ross

    I lost my beautiful Sister to cancer at age 39 in her prime of life. It came out of nowhere and tomthis day Inhave never gotten over it! I was 35 and she was my role model
    and best friend. She had finally opened her own store called Pizzaz with her best friend Pet Nosan. To this day when I see or wear purple she lives with me. She has never left. We all have lost those close to us to cancer somsome awful disease- the legacy they leave us is what matters- it stays forever.!

  5. Sheri Brown

    Suzy dear, What a special article about special friends! Beautifully written and poignant and I remember most of these artistic women. Thinking of you and Burt. I recited his name at temple for a mi shebeirach. Praying for his recovery. ????????????????

  6. Glotia colton

    I’ve read many many of your wonderful prose but this by far is the very best
    Looking for a much better future even though you’ve been gifted with a beautiful past

  7. Linda Milne

    Beautifully written, Suzy. Our friends become part of us, and remain part of us even after they’re gone.

  8. SuSu Sosnick

    Suzy, such wonderful memories. It makes you reflect
    on so many friends who are gone. Where
    have the years gone, so fast. I tell my children to enjoy the moment, feel blessed that their love
    ones are safe and healthy. That makes a rich person!!
    We forget we are not young anymore. As my 100
    year old mother always had said “ There are
    no golden years” Love you, SuSu

  9. Carmen

    Beautifully written, Suzy. Friendships really never leave us; although there is the pain, the sweet memories remain. Hugs to both you and Burt.

  10. Ginny

    Thank you for sharing this post. It was heartfelt, and definitely resonated with me. I lost two very good friends in the past few weeks. I loved them both so much, and the world will seem a bit emptier without them. I am so blessed to have known them and so grateful for the wonderful memories. Sending prayers and love to you and Burt and your family.

  11. Delin

    Great news , Burton is going home !!!!!
    And you are writing again ……… missed you .
    Sending you both peace , light and love
    Your friend

  12. Julie Cummings

    You always have the grace and courage to view your life from a broader and more spiritual perspective even when you were unaware you were doing this.
    I have learned so much from your grace under pressure, courage and even audacity to state your truth and ability to be vulnerable. In these many ways you allow all of us to connect to your divine soul and be healed in the process. Thank you dear
    friend for allowing me to be a part of your journey.
    Bless you and know I am wrapping you and yours in white light and ❤️ love

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