By Arthur H. Gunther III
Sometimes a person comes along as if the moment were a conversation with a plane passenger whom you’ve just met and who will soon move on to her own destination. Yet, however short the time, there is a connection that cannot be forgotten, though it is also not something you dwell upon. It is reassurance that life isn’t just about getting through things.
That is what happened to me so long ago now, about 1970 when a newspaper colleague and I found we were often on the same assignment, she a writer, I a photographer. Town Board meetings can be long affairs, with downtime, and you shoot the breeze. Diana was an involved conversationalist, and we both began to look forward to exchanging thoughts. She listened, I listened, and the mutuality of that recognition of worth proved key to friendship. This wasn’t romance, the conversations, but the growing strength of expectation, of sharing words, was ardent in itself.
Diana could enter sentences I began, and I hers, and that had happened to me only once before. It is a gift when there is such synchronicity, when there are goose bumps from the understandings made, the reaches into another being realized. It is a purring moment, like two friendly cats comfortable with each other. You cannot invent such relationship — it just happens.
A few months after our conversations, I would move from photography to the news desk and then on to editing and eventually editorial and column writing, and Diana would marry Al and move to New England for a very long and happy relationship. I would say we simply lost touch, though there never was any thought of keeping a connection, and except for two brief but sad greetings when her parents died some years back, I had not heard of or from Diana. Now I have.
I am told by her brother, who was my school classmate, that Diana passed Feb. 1 after a long illness which even he knew little about. Diana apparently wanted no one to suffer with her, not surprising given the breadth of her compassion for others in those long-ago conversations.
In my remembrance of her after I heard the news, I can hear the words, see the gestures, feel the human connection between two friends in a public meeting hall. You cannot underestimate having a special friendship forged in a moment, not celebrated much beyond that but somehow an eternal one. And I am eternally grateful, Diana.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arthur, thank you for this story. As you say so often things of real significance in our personal lives go unremarked and uncelebrated, which only diminishes our experience. Your story is a reminder to treaure all those little and not so little connections over the years.
You often wonder with such a friendship, could life had been different? I remember a woman I met on a train to Milwaukee. I was on a 48 hour pass from Navy training and she was heading to college. We chatted for the hour ride about out past and or thought on the future. We exchanged addresses and wrote a few letters. I moved on to other duties and she to a marriage. I always wondered where Ellen’s path of life took her. 45 minutes on a train, and I remember her to this day.
So true, Jim, so true.
Art, thanks so much for sharing that. Those connections are the treasure trove if our lives. I have several friends that I feel are always with me and I cherish them.
We should all be so fortunate as to be remembered this way. We’ve all experienced these kinds of connections with others–uncommon and significant, even if brief. What you wrote is a reminder to cherish such moments, which so enrich our lives. Thank you!