I wrote this blog post a year ago, and as hard as it is to read again, I think it still holds up. I still miss Liz in a very raw and emotional way, but I can say that in the past year I have thought each and everyday about how to live generously, fill a room with warmth and energy, be present in the moment, and smile when I think about her. This still seems to be the right tone, the right words, the right story – a year later.
I first met Liz in second grade in Miss Lydon’s class at Riverside Elementary School, and though she always said that I was the one who was friendly to her and made her feel welcome, I think it was actually the other way around. I was blessed to maintain this easy, beautiful friendship with her for 40 years. Dancing together at Princeton Ballet, through many years of Nutcracker performances, countless sleepovers at one another’s houses, the awkward years of middle school, and high school, when I kept dancing and she didn’t, and then the college years and after, when she moved to Japan while I pursued a career in ballet. There aren’t many people who remained as close to me. Even when we were apart, we were connected.
Liz was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. But yet, when you were with her she made you feel like you were the smartest person she had ever met. I wasn’t. But she had the capacity to champion everything I did, and she always made me feel accomplished, even when I felt like I was floundering. In the years after we had children, she would not only be able to sympathize with the challenges of motherhood, she would take the time to tell me I was doing a great job. That was Liz.
She had recently joined the board of trustees at McCarter Theatre, where I’ve worked for over 16 years. She knew the challenges I faced working in the non profit sector, we had always shared the love of the arts, theater and dance. I don’t know all of the reasons behind why she decided to become a part of McCarter’s board, but she told me that she couldn’t wait to roll up her sleeves and really help. And in the few months she was at McCarter, she did just that. At opening night of the play Proof in September of last year, we chatted at the post-performance party, and continued our conversation outside as we left late into the evening, (we were good at talking…) and as we lingered by our cars parked near the Princeton University campus, we giggled like we were back in high school at the rousing party going on in a dorm room 3 stories above us. When beer cans began flying out of the window, we decided maybe it was time to call it a night.
It was not uncommon for her to leave me 6 minute long voice mails; I loved listening to them. We texted or emailed each other two or three times a week. We worked on several projects together to distribute McCarter marketing materials into the local schools, and she was a rock star in following through and knowing what we needed. In these last couple of months when I knew she wasn’t well, I would check in with her and she would always respond, but then turn the conversation around to… “so how are you doing?” I saw her about 10 days before she passed away. She was at the Princeton Ballet School when I was coming in to teach and she was waiting for her son Ned to finish class. She looked tired, sad, but she was smiling at me through her tired eyes. I worried, and she was on the top of my mind.
What I’m left with now is a deep sadness that we had just started working together for a passion we both cared deeply about, and I’m selfishly missing her. I am left with an emptiness without this easy friendship that was like breathing air. But I’m also filled with renewed hope and thanks that because of who she was, she made me a more generous, focused person. I will continually strive to live up to her humility, her kind spirit, her warmth, her personal generosity. As women, as mothers, we often try to assume a larger load than we can carry. Let’s be generous towards one another. Let’s champion one another, our causes and our passions. Let’s look out for each other. Let’s be present for our families. Let’s tell each other we’re doing a great job. Because that will honor Liz.