I first met Jinny when I was a young woman, through a flurry of fury and tears as my disappointments and hurts were being hurled into a surprised suitcase on a stone wall terrace. Vowing never to return to my future husband’s family home, her sturdily built frame strolled up the driveway and cast an enquiring shadow.
In a brave act of rudeness (I didn’t know how brave then), I asked this old woman if she too had come to put her two cents worth into the drama.
“I don’t know dearie,” she twinkled, making herself comfortable on the hot stone wall, as though in a movie theatre waiting for the curtain to come up on the second act of something. “Why don’t you sit here with me and tell me all about it.”
Startled in my fury, I threw myself into this stranger’s arms and cried on her shoulder for the next 25 years.
At the start of the many lessons I was to learn from Jinny, that day’s wisdom was to always leave on one’s own terms. Whilst acknowledging that a heated exit would feel deliciously satisfying, she counselled that it would feel so only in this moment. That it would not provide future comfort or leave behind a legacy of how well I had been raised and educated.
With her carefully curled hair, bridge player’s hands and our mutual love of reading, Jinny became a staple in my life. We saw each other but once a year when I came to America, but we always made certain we saw each other a few times during my visit.
Annually, over a few iced teas or a glass of whiskey in her genteel house or bountiful garden, Jinny and I would re-examine the year just gone. Years which came to include being married to the man I was ready to kill the day I met her, and the stunning family he and I managed to forage out of our messy beginnings.
A willing listener and confidante, Jinny would however underplay all and any of her own health issues – calling them but ‘little inconveniences.’ I learnt to stop pushing her for the detail, getting my information elsewhere.
Before leaving the UK this year, Jinny and I inked in some immovable dates when we would get together. Our annual meetings were sacred to both of us and friends and family came to understand and respect that.
On arrival in America this year, I was told the same night by my mother-in-law that Jinny was to die that week. Rushing to the phone in tears, I made a plan with Jinny’s daughter to see Jinny the next day in hospital.
Jinny died in the early hours before I could get there to hold her hand and say goodbye.
The hour she died was during one of the worst storms I have experienced in Rhode Island. In the early a.m., my own daughter and I battled wind, rain and thunder trying to shut shutters whilst dodging lightening.
It now seems fitting that Jinny left on a day and hour as memorable as the one when I first met her. Some say whimsically that Jinny waited for me to arrive to the States before dying, but deep in my heart I know Jinny went exactly on her own terms.
RIP my dearest, dearest friend. I love you.