Several years, or maybe it was a lifetime ago, I was sitting at my desk checking email. I got a comment on my old blog, from a woman named Jennifer Ballantyne. She had been reading me for a while and had finally decided to comment, because the post I had written was so similar to one she herself had just penned. It was as though we both moving out from the same heart writing about our sons, about the experience of single motherhood from one perspective. That night I read her blog from start to finish and walked away thinking, she is me-or I am she…or maybe we were soul sisters cut from the same cloth.

Slowly, very slowly we started talking off blog, by email about writing, about creating. She had ideas for my blog, thoughts about my writing. Most of her opinions were strong and most of them were exactly what I needed to hear–my platform was awkward, my writing was better than I thought it was, I needed to showcase myself better, have more confidence. She told me I should write a book. I was touched by support, I found her easy to “talk” to, she could call me out on my writing insecurities without any of my gremlins joining in the party.

One day, while responding to an email where she was helping me with a tough piece, I mentioned to her, “shhh….don’t tell anyone but I am going on a date. My first date since Juan left”. “Tell me all about it, dear girl” she responded. At that moment the floodgates opened, and our friendship really began.

Within weeks and for a long long time after that, not a day went by that we didn’t talk. By email, by phone, by skype. We talked about our kids, about what we loved about our towns, about what we were making for dinner, what we would give our kids for Christmas. We talked about being single moms, our ex-husbands, our relationships with our siblings. I felt that she got me. She understood when well-meaning but thoughtless comments were made about how I was trying to parent Max. She understood when no one else did. She understood all the ways we single mamas struggle–all the guilt and sadness and worry we carry that sometimes feels heavier than those of our partnered up sisters. She was like a mama bear and defended me fiercely when someone hurt my feelings.

She was my confidant on the ins-and-outs of my heart. My crushes, my heartbreaks. My joys. I told her all my old love stories and she told me hers too. I was baffled by the fact that someone I had never met face to face could know me so well. She was taken back too. After awhile we stopped being baffled and would laugh about the day when we would meet, wrap our arms around each other and sit on the beach laughing…remember back then, when we were penpals and emailed long emails every night–pouring out our hearts to a stranger who would become a sister. What a crazy leap! Aren’t we glad we did it? Look how wonderful it has all turned out!

The reality was Jenni was so far away, she could see me clearly.

One spring night, when loneliness covered me like a heavy blanket, I called Jenni and we talked for 4 hours. One summer night, when she was feeling blue, my friend Jeff, some other musician friends and I and I called her and played music for her loud –giving her her own private concert via speaker phone.

Jenni’s cancer was something we talked about. Alot. But it wasn’t the basis of our connection. Almost two years ago, Jenni’s cancer came roaring back after a brief respite. We promised each other we would live each day as though it was our last.

I have been losing Jenni slowly, over the last half a year or so. Her pain has required a full-time move to hospice. She was writing less and less. At various points, we have said our goodbyes–never quite final–but making sure we knew the important stuff. That it never went unsaid. One night, on the phone, we came to a peace that we might never make it to that beach, to that moment when we would wrap our arms around each other and whisper our secrets in person. “We found each other from halfway across the world” we said. “We will find each other again. Next time. I promise.”

*******

Tonight my friend Jeff came over for a guitar lesson. He walked in the door. He asked me how I was.

“Jenni died tonight”. I told him.

He put down his guitar. He put Max to bed. He then settled down on my couch and he said, “tell me”. I began to re-tell him all the stories he already knew–how Jenni and I first met, how we laughed and chatted and skyped and stayed up late talking on the phone. He listened as I told him about her opinions, her Jack, her dream to come to the US, her blog. He listened as I told him how Jenni understood things no one else could truly understand. I told him all I had learned from Jenni. How I learned to tell my friends that I love them, no matter how crazy or silly or odd it sounded. How I learned to listen to strangers. How I learned to push back when people hurt me. Telling stories was the only way I knew to keep Jenni alive. Telling stories was what Jenni and I did. So I told him my love stories, all the old ones I had told Jenni. And I ended with the love story about the about two soul sisters who would never meet.

Jenni is a gift to me. The lessons she taught me are rich and deep. She is with me, even if she isn’t. She always has been with me, even though she never actually was, and so, I suppose in that way nothing has changed. We have talked so much, I can hear her voice, know exactly what she would say, what she is saying. I will have it to carry with me, as I did each time we ended.

“Good night gorgeous girl. I have so much more to say to you, but for now it is late. And it is time to let each other sleep”

Good night dear Jenni. I love you. Good night.

23 Responses to “May the Circle Be Unbroken”

  1. Maggie, dammit Says:

    I would never have known about Jenni if not for you. You brought her to life for me. We only had a very little bit of contact and it’s been a while, but it was very clear to me how lovely and generous she was.

    When I saw the news on her blog I thought of you right away. I’m just so sorry for your loss, Meg.

  2. Leenie Says:

    Meg, I am crying as I write this for you. I know how much she meant to you and your writings reflect all she has taught you. I love you so much dear cousin – love and hugs across the miles

  3. Sue Borg Says:

    I knew you would be writing about Jenni…beautiful~!

    Sue in Spokane WA xo

  4. Elizabeth Harper Says:

    It’s a beautiful tribute Meg.

    I found Jenni’s blog through you and had been following her story for some time. It was never easy to read and I was always touched by her words. It broke my mothering heart over and over to think of her leaving her life and her boys while they were all so young.

    I am so sorry for your loss. She was a dear soul.

  5. Ruthie Graham Says:

    Beautiful words…Keeping you in the forefront of my mind today….

  6. Kerry Says:

    Meg I read your blog and don’t comment much due to problems with my vision. I often read but do not comment as much as I would love to.
    Today I feel the need. I read about Jen last night and was so deeply touched by how she lived her life and her struggles.
    My thoughts and prayers go out to you today to.
    Thank you so much for writing about your precious friendship. I to have friend who I met on line in Au. who has since passed due to Leukemia and my life is forever changed. I carry with me each day and always will. As I will Jen and her story!
    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  7. Aunt Mo Says:

    My dear sweet Meg….warm thoughts and love are with you today and through your time of grieving. May Jenni rest in peace and finally be free of her pain.
    I relate to your wonderful friendship as I too have a friend similar to her. When we moved to Illinois in 1997, by chance I met my friend Marge Askren on email. She lives in Rockland TX and we too have never met in person, but have communicated daily since that 1st chance encounter. Your writing today has encourage me to make that meeting come to fruition. Love You!!!!!

  8. Elisabete Says:

    Dear Meg,

    Jenni united us all. For 2 years Jenni has entered my life via blog and she is a friend. You both have a strong and beautiful friendship, I believe you’re soul sisters as you describe it. We miss Jen and her writings. She is a strong soul. It’s time to pray more. Now she is free from pain and I believe the angels carry her in their light arms.
    Take care, love.
    Bete

  9. Wendy McDonagh-Valentine Says:

    Dear Meg,

    I am so sorry about the loss of your friend, Jenni. I just read on her blog that she had passed and I thought of you. Every person that God puts into our life is there for a reason. It sounds to me like Jenni was your angel even before she passed. I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes her presence known to you. When she does, acknowledge her. There is such a thin veil between us and those who have passed. God bless you, Meg. xoxo

    ~ Wendy
    http://Crickleberrycottage.blogspot.com/

  10. Lisla Says:

    Knews of Jen’s death – while not unexpected – had hit hard. I am not sure if I found her blog through yours or the other way around but I do know that they became some of my favorites.

    I am grateful for the gift of herself that she gave to each of us. I am grateful she had that last year she was striving for.

    With her loss, I will hug my son a little tighter today,

    I am sorry that you have lost the presence of your good friend.

    Lisa

  11. Ginny Says:

    This is a lovely tribute to Jenni. I don’t know how I found her, if it was through you or someone else, but she was a beautiful soul and will be missed.

  12. Erin Wilson Says:

    Hi Meg. I came over from Jenni’s place to tell you how very sorry I am for your loss. It was obvious to all that you had a very special relationship. I keep thinking about all your efforts to find her good care… searching out trials and treatments that might help her.

    You were a great friend to her. A great sister. I think you must be very good at that, considering your story above about Jeff.

    I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am.
    And that I learned much about friendship from you.

    Peace.

  13. schmutzie Says:

    Oh, my dear. I am so sorry that you won’t have your beach together. You are so very lucky to have had her.

  14. David Ballantyne Says:

    Thank you Meg.

    I wont write much now as Jack and I are off back to Warragul this morning but i will catch up again soon. Sooo many people to reply to and thank, but clearly you and Jen were great friends so I felt the need to come here and say thanks. Hold her close in your heart and things will be ok. I just held Jack and the tears came unbidden to me. He said, “there’s tears in your eyes, Dad”. “Yep”, I replied, “and it’s ok and there will be lots more more both of us too”. He gave me a hug and we chatted about looking after each other when we are sad or crying. He told me about how it feels different without Mum here and how it feels like there’s a big hole inside. We chatted about Mum and Dad’s plan for him to come and live with me all those months ago so she would get to see him settled and happy living with me and that made Mum happy to see.

    Sorry, this was a quick thank you but every time I start talking to someone or writing somewhere I just keep going!

    Take care, Meg. We’ll “chat” again soon. This is a beautiful tribute post you have written.

    Love,

    David. X

  15. Jeanine Says:

    Oh Meg, I am so sorry. I have been lurking here and on Jenni’s blog for a while now. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Trish Says:

    Oh Meg.

    What can I say? Thank you for introducing me to Jenni. Thank you for sharing your friendship / soulsister connection. Thank you for allowing us to know you and glimpse at the genuine affection that you two shared.

    Please know that I am holding you close to my heart.

    Trish
    xoxo

  17. bridge Says:

    I think I started reading Jen because of you and Jen Lemen. I can only say I learned a great deal from her. It is with sadness I say goodbye and wish I had been able to know her even better.

  18. meredith winn Says:

    i am thinking of nothing but love today. it’s all that matters.
    love and peace,
    meredith

  19. pixiemama Says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, dear girl.

    love.

  20. Jena Says:

    Love. The heart of everything. Your friendship lives on, forever.

  21. diane Says:

    i don’t know you. i don’t know jen. but i came here to read and i have been thinking about you both frequently today. the internet is amazing to me. it has brought you and jen together in what seems to be deep friendship. you are both lucky to have had this bond.

  22. Deborah Says:

    WOW….you are an inspring writer, and I’m so sorry to hear about Jen. I found her like many others through your blog, however for the past 9 months or so,I have not been around much on the computer, and today I felt the urge to find out how she was doing. I cried when I read David’s posting to say she had passed, and feel so very sad, but then feel strong to hear what a brave and admirable young woman she appeared to me. What a wonderful friendship you had.
    Thank you for sharing it with us…
    love Deborah (United Kingdom)

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