Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Loving Memory of Wende Lynn Santos

Wende Lynn Santos
April 28, 1953 - October 20, 2010

Tomorrow (6/19/11) a celebration of my friend Wende's life is being held in Lincoln City, Oregon. I found out about her passing after returning from our Lake Powell trip. I had a feeling while on the trip that I was going to come home to a message that someone I knew had transitioned. Sure enough, there was an email from Wende's daughter Sierra waiting for me.

I'm unable to attend Wende's celebration of life in person, but have expressed here the most meaningful and profound memories I have of our connection.

My friend Wende…

When I was a young woman in my teens, Wende befriended me and took me under her wings. Eleven years my senior, and sister Taurean, I looked up to and admired Wende, and she ultimately proved to be a valuable role model with three specific incidents between us that deeply affected me and who I have become.

The first incident was when I was babysitting her young daughter Sierra at their small cabin in the woods. I stole something of Wende’s and after doing so I was wrought with guilt over my action because Wende had been such a good friend to me. Why would I do something so foolish? A couple of weeks later, I couldn’t take it any longer and I approached Wende, confessing my act. I thoroughly expected that she would be very angry and that my punishment would be the ending of our friendship. But my love for and need of approval from Wende was so great that I couldn’t leave what I had done hidden, no matter what the consequences might be.

What followed my confession surprised and deeply affected me. Wende didn’t get angry, she simply listened and didn’t say anything. After an awkward silence I asked her if she was going to punish me, and she said, “Nope. It is apparent that you’ve already punished yourself quite a lot and that you are truly sorry for what you did. That is enough. Anything more is unnecessary.”

Having experienced being punished for telling the truth when I was a child, Wende’s kindness, compassion, and ability to see that I had already learned from my foolish action has stayed with me ever since and aided me when I became a mother, as well as with my interactions with others under similar circumstances but with me being on the other side.

Jennifer, Wende and Billie Lou - Calaveras Folk Festival, Sept. 1990
The second incident was another foolhardy teenage act. I was again babysitting 3-year-old Sierra. A recent licensed driver at 16, I was taking her to Wende in Mtn. Ranch when I did a very careless thing – I turned the car engine off so as to coast down the hill. I had done this before, but this time I removed the key from the steering column and this caused the steering wheel to lock up as we went around a corner. I braked and braced for impact, the car hit a bank and flipped over, and now I was scurrying to get myself and Sierra out of the car, concerned about a fire or an explosion. The other careless thing I did was to not have Sierra buckled up, so when we crashed she was flung around a bit. Fortunately, Sierra was not hurt more than some bumps and bruises.

When all was said and done, what Wende did for me was to remain my friend even though I had endangered her child’s life. Yes, she was angry at my teenage foolishness, but she didn’t give up on me, allow it to stop her love for me, nor her continuing to be a part of my life. But I wasn’t asked to do any further babysitting of Sierra. As a mother now, I understand her decision then.

Jennifer and Wende - Brookings, OR 1991
The third incident was 10 years later when I was an adult in my twenties. I’d married young, at 17, gave birth to three children and was now divorced. Having jumped into marriage and raising a family so young, including the death of my firstborn, I was making up for lost time then, partying a lot and having many boyfriends. Wende was concerned about my behavior and asked if we could meet so that she could express her concerns in detail.
I’d never been one who handled confrontations well, and this certainly felt like it would be one, so I was at first leery of saying yes to the meeting. However, this was Wende, my friend who had been there for me during my foolish teenage years, for the death of my firstborn daughter, and for my divorce. I owed her, at the very least, my willingness and openness to hear her out. So I agreed and we met. After our meeting I wrote a poem about the experience:

Painful Words

“Jennifer, I need to talk to you.”
“Okay, I’ll come by soon.”
Now my mind is racing round
But my heart feels the pull of the moon…

The moon, the dark and silent one
The one to explore the depths
The give and pull of tides and waves
Where truth will reach out and get

You, or me, as it was that day
When witty Wende said
She needed to rid her chest of words
She had left as yet unsaid

The time was set, plans were made
To meet on the evening of Friday
Then I spent time preparing myself
To be open to what she would say

I arrived, we conversed
Conversation was pleasant
We traded some cookies we’d made
Then finally got down to the business

“This is not very easy,” she said,
“I feel I’d rather write to you.
But again, the points must be made
And for this I really must face you.”

“That’s fair,” I said, “I understand,
And for you I’ll sit and listen
So that you may say your piece
Without interruptions, so nothing is missin’.”

She began to speak
I felt and took it in
Attempting to sort out
The truths from the opinions

While sitting there listening
I felt as though
My body was positioned
As if to protect from a blow

I looked down at myself
Saw my physical was balanced
Realized it was my spirit
In a protective stance

Finally the words stopped
All had been said
Silence then followed
With deep thoughts in my head

I knew some things were valid
In knew some where disappointments
Of having seen a side of me
That had not been know of as yet

I thanked my friend for sharing
Her thoughts and concerns with me
The painful aspects of friendship
Are not easy to face openly

We both felt better about each other
We hugged and kissed and laughed
The bond between us was strengthened
By the love that makes friendships last

Jennifer and Wende - Brookings OR beach 1991
Wende and I remained friends, but when she moved to Oregon not long after this poem was written we saw each other only once more in the physical when my second husband and I (just beginning to date at that time) went up to visit her in Brookings in the fall of 1991. We corresponded and spoke on the phone off and on for many years after that, but finally I lost touch with Wende around 2005 or so when a holiday card I’d sent was returned with no forwarding address.

However, even though Wende and I drifted apart physically, her influence on my life and who I have become is permanently embossed on my heart.

Wende, your big smile, infectious laugh, quirky sense of humor, unconditional love and yummy hugs are forever remembered.

Much love and gratitude I have for you my dear friend – Witty Wende!

1 comment:

  1. This was brave writing dear one. Very touching. I feel privileged to look into this deep mirror. And blessings on Wende and her family.