Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself ‘neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum.”
I lost one of my best friends of my whole life Saturday. Her name was Beth, and she was wonderful, and I’m pretty sure that the only reason I can write this today and still see the screen is that I’m still in some kind of weird shock.
Beth playing the very first guitar she made.
I met Beth in January 2005 at guitar camp in Mendocino, California. I had been playing just 5 months, couldn’t even strum upwards, and in hindsight, it was pretty ballsy of me to even go when I was such a noob. And I felt it the whole time I was there, feeling like the new kid, and feeling like no one would eat lunch with me, and all kinds of ridiculous insecurity. Later, when I told Beth that, she said she thought I was great from the get-go, and knew she wanted to be my friend.
As it turned out, her parents lived in Tucson, and she promised to get in touch with me when she was in town. She didn’t that first year, and I figured it was just one of those “Hey, we’ll get together” things that people say but never happens. But I found out later that she had tried, but couldn’t get ahold of me. That might’ve been the year we got rid of our landline, and she didn’t have my other number. Oops. We cleared it up at camp the next year.
The two of us performing “In the Wee Small Hours” at open no-mic at camp. It took a lot of courage for Beth to play in front of people, but she did it. I don’t know why I look so forlorn as I wait to sing.
Me, Beth, and Barbara at guitar camp
In San Francisco the year camp was canceled at the virtually last minute. We had our tickets, so we met up in The City.
We kept in touch via email, and she and her girlfriend (at the time) Pam invited me to come visit them in Wisconsin in October 2007. I was still a wreck from Antiguo’s death, but they took such good care of me. It was on that trip, on the back of a motorcycle winding through lake country and watching the colorful leaves fall, that I thought, for the first time in ages, “Life IS good.” I knew then I’d be all right, eventually.
Us riding a large metal pig outside a restaurant in Wisconsin. Like ya do.
When she was in town visiting her parents, we’d get together. And when her dad passed away, she and Pam decided to move here to be closer to her mom. It was a sad reason for the move, but I was also elated. How often are you lucky enough that your far-away friends move into your town?
At a glass art studio, blowing glass ornaments.
And we were thick as thieves from there out. Beth was a veterinarian for 30 years, but she wanted to be a luthier when she grew up. The first instrument she made on her own was my ukulele. She also gave me the last instrument she made, a beautiful guitar, just a few weeks ago, in lieu of the custom one we had planned for me but which the cancer ultimately made impossible. It took so much from her, and now from me and everyone who loves her.
Me, and Beth, and Marcie in Santa Rosa, California, home of Charles M. Schulz.
I was lucky to benefit from Beth’s excellent choice in life partner, too, because her wife, Pam, has also become one of the best friends of my whole life. How often do you like your friend’s spouse as well as you like them? Not often.
Me, Beth, and her lovely wife, Pam, hanging out with Charlie Brown and Snoopy. We were in Santa Rosa for the Healdsburg Guitar Festival.
I got to sing at their wedding. In Maui, no less. Just 2 years ago. And I am sad, and angry, again, that such a loving, and in love, couple has been torn apart.
At Beth and Pam’s wedding in Maui, on the beach.
I am lucky to have this picture, because whenever I need a hug from my beloved friend, I have it right here. It’s nearly impossible to describe the whole of who a person was, but Beth was loving, and kind, and smart, and generous with her time and considerable talents, and funny, and even though we knew it was coming, it is so hard to comprehend that it’s arrived. That we’re here, and she’s not with us. Beth, you are gone way too soon, and we miss you like hell. I love you.