The first thing you should know is that she would be really mad at me for posting this picture.
She was so reticent about sharing pictures that our circle of close friends, who first met on a cooking website, had a running joke that all this time we were picturing her as a genteel blonde New Englander, she was probably really a sassy black soul-sister. I’ve known her more than a decade and I have seen exactly six pictures of her, and four of them were taken with my camera.
The second thing you should know is I will never not miss my friend Lee Ann.
In all the years I have known her, talking almost every day, she has made me laugh more times than I can count. She has prayed with me, cried with me, cussed with me, rolled her eyes with me, had my back, set me straight, listened to my stories, shared hers, given me advice, told me I didn’t need advice, asked me for help, offered me help, and gotten dinner on my table by sharing her recipes.
If you know Lee Ann from her blog, Elle’s New England Kitchen, you already know she can cook. She would do her own “Chopped” challenges, and I would have loved to see her on the show, all gentle sweetness and light and brilliance until someone crossed her. Then, she would unleash one of her completely unexpected zingers that would leave her opponent shell-shocked and everyone else rolling on the floor.
Lee Ann and I met on a cooking website when we were young moms. I went there to find out how long I needed to boil eggs. I left there with friends I know I will have for all my life. In the years that have passed, we have been there for each other through the birth of children and the loss of them, the death of parents, new jobs, lost jobs, marriages beginning and ending. We are spread out over four countries, and if you looked at all the different life stages, personalities, political and religious beliefs you would think “no way are they friends.”
But we are, and Lee Ann was at the heart of that friendship. She had four precious children of her own, and she mothered us, too. She was the kind of friend you hope to grow up to be. When I read through our private emails and conversations with me, I realized none of them were about her. They were all about another one of our friends, someone she was worried about, hurting for, wanting to help.
With her death, I have seen this week the strength of what she has built as her friends solider up to help her family, and comfort each other. And yes, sometimes in the midst of it, we have unleashed zingers that leave everyone laughing until our sides hurt. Because above all else, Lee Ann brought joy.
She loved snow, and she gave me Sarah McLaughlan’s “Wintersong” album. As I played it yesterday, the lyrics settled in my heart like a blanket.
In the snow on Christmas morning
Love and happiness surround you
As you throw your arms up to the sky
I keep this moment by and by.”