Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fern Meyerowitz



Today is Fern’s birthday. She would have been 47 years old.

We met in college. My cousin Cindy introduced us. She had told me she met this amazing girl during orientation, and knew we would be best friends. I was skeptical, of course. I barely knew myself at that point, and had a hard time believing Cindy could pick a stranger from a crowd and know I would love her.

It took exactly one meeting for Fern and I to figure out that Cindy was right. Within minutes, we had collapsed into one another in laughter and become best friends. It took twenty-five years for fate to tear us apart.

We had a big, messy, complicated friendship all those years. Fern could be as demanding as she was funny, as stubborn as she was charming. But she changed me forever. And while she wasn’t always the easiest person to be friends with, she was fiercely loyal, and I never knew a friend could love me so much or believe in me or deeply. Some people said Fern had magic, and I think they were right.

When I got the news that Fern had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I was confident she could beat it, as I couldn’t imagine there was any force on Earth stronger than her. But I was wrong. And in summer 2002, Fern was gone.

I still think about Fern a lot, and sometimes I consider trying to write about her—I mean really write about her. So far, though, I either haven’t enough talent or enough distance to capture her spirit on paper. The closest I’ve come is to write about my grief, which I did in a Flashquake piece called “How to Say Good-Bye to Fern.”

When we first met, Fern and I thought we were mirror images of one another. But over the years we came to learn that we were as different as we were alike. Take spirituality, for example. Fern was a believer. I remain a skeptic. So even though she trusted in reincarnation with all her heart, I’m still not so sure. I do know, though, that if anyone could find a way to make sure their spirit sticks around, it would be Fern.

So my darling friend, if you’re out there somewhere, Happy Birthday. I miss you so very much.



1/26/07 - EDITED TO ADD:

Dear Visitor,
My site meter shows that people sometimes find their way to this blog because they typed Fern's name into a search engine. This makes me smile, because I know it would mean so much to Fern to know she's still thought about. If you'd like, feel free to treat this blog post as an ongoing memorial. You can share a comment about Fern--some memory or just a note on how you met or what she meant to you--by clicking on "comments," below.

37 comments:

Myfanwy Collins said...

Ellen, I write this with tears in my eyes: what a loving and beautiful tribute to a woman who truly does sound magical (just like her best friend). I'm so sorry for your loss. And I love these photos. You look like twins.

Love,
myf

Nance Knauer said...

i remember that flash. it made me bawl before i knew what stood behind it, now it's even more heart-wrenching. a beautiful tribute but yes, when the time is right, tell us more about Fern, raise her spirit for the rest of us.

RobinSlick said...

This is so beautiful, Ellen. As are the photos.

And the flash -- it's one of those pieces I'll never forget.



Now. What's this about you not being a natural blonde?

(Just felt the need to add a little levity. My eyes are filled with tears, too)

Maryanne Stahl said...

beautiful, compassionate, honest and clear-headed. that is you.

this tribute is lovely. those pictures are amazing!

Ellen said...

Myf, Nance, Rob, Maryanne ... you gels are making me cry! Thanks SO much for all your kindness and support. Fern would have loved you to pieces, I know it.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute, Ellen. I love the photos of the two of you. You'll keep writing about Fern, I know, in one way or another, she'll continue to emerge from your work. You were lucky to have such a great friendship. xoxo

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Oh gosh...this is so lovely, Ellen.

Have you read Truth and Beauty by Anne Patchett? I suspect it would move you. It's about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, a poet who had to have continual surgery on her face due to cancer as a child...

You are so eloquent! And that photo is great.

xo
J

Katie said...

This is a gorgeous tribute. You and Fern were so lucky to have each other. I adore those pictures.

Susan Henderson said...

This made me cry. The good thing about our best friends is they stay alive in us forever. Hopefully Fern knows my friend Ruth now, I think they'd get on great.

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

That's a lovely post, and Im' so sorry you lost your friend.

Ellen said...

Kath, Jordan, Katie, Sue and Melanie ... Thanks for your tender words. Mean a great deal to me.
xo

SusanD said...

I remember that flash, Ellen. Fern sounds amazing, and I'm so sorry for your loss.

Ellen said...

You would have loved her to pieces, Susan.
xo

Anonymous said...

I grew up a few blocks from Fern, we were in class together all through elementry school and attended the same jhs & hs. I only learned today of her passing. I was very much saddened, yet relieved see her memorialized on your blog. She was funny
(great sense of humor) beautiful person, Memories of her are running through my mind, including the crush I had on her. Its heartwarming to know she had found a kind friend like you. I will remember her often and pray she's in a better place.
RSL

Ellen said...

I'm glad you found your way here, RSL. She was indeed funny and beautiful. Take comfort in knowing that when she died, she was ready to go.

Anonymous said...

What made me think of Fern today? I met her at the wedding of a mutual friend back the late 1980s or thereabouts. She had so much to share that night - I drove her home to Manhattan from Commack. She was genuinely engaging and never predictable. I remember hanging out with her until all hours of the night singing songs and telling jokes. We once had a phone conversation that lasted from 8pm until 4am. Was there anyone like her?

Ellen said...

Anonymous, I'm so glad you stopped in to share. And no, there was no one like her. I've never met anyone else who could touch people like Fern did. What a gift ...

Steven Kolodny said...

Memories of Fern (whom I called Fernly)...
1) She's the one who turned me on to Seinfeld.
2) I can picture her cat Louie wrapped around her.
3) Fern took me to dinner at The Mooring in Freeport for my birthday one year.
4) She spoke lovingly and often about her niece Morgan.

I can't believe she's gone. I expect the phone to ring and I will hear her giggle and she'll tell me that she's not really gone at all.

Diana said...

Ellen, oh mercy. I remember seeing that pic of the 2 of you at Buffalo. I miss her, so terribly, my beautiful funny Fern. I am crying today as I did when I first heard of her sickness; I am crying now as I did when I hung up with her the last time, after saying "you sound so tired, i'll let you go now," and she softly answered "goodbye love", and as i did when i called her number one last time, scared to hear what i knew i'd hear. thank you for sharing your memories and your voyage with this beautiful soul. Fern was truly a blessing in my life.

Ellen said...

Steven, glad you found this blog and shared your memories. One of Fern's friends nicknamed that cat Lujo, which was so appropriate. ay! What a cat! But she loved him fiercely ... just like she loved all of us.

Diana, so glad you searched and wound up here! Thanks for sharing those emotions. I miss her, too ... and still often feel cheated that she's no longer with us. xo

Anonymous said...

I knew Fern in the mid-1980s. She was one of the very few things I liked about my job. Fern's smiles and sweetness helped keep me sane, and I will always be thankful to her for that. I'm happy to have known her, and truly sorry she is gone.

Annie Berrol said...

I went through public school with Fern, out in the Five Towns. She was beautiful and graceful and in our Creative Writing class I found that she was also imaginative and talented. I only found out today that she was gone. I have faith in God, but there are times when I wonder what on earth He is thinking.

R.B. said...

I was friendly with fern in junior high school.

Paul K. said...

This was startling to me. I had a dream about Fern last night and googled her just out of curiosity. I'm sad. She was truly a unique and enjoyable person. We were in school together from the third grade though high school. We were friendly, but never very close. Still, I liked her very much. Maybe I'd call it a crush. Although the news is sad, your tribute to her is beautiful. Thanks.

Ellen said...

Anonymous, thank you so much for your kind comment!

Annie, everything you say about Fern is true. And yes, it seems so unfair that she was taken from us so young.

Paul K, I'm sorry for the shock ... but what a tribute to Fern that people are still having dreams about her! She touched so many of us.

R.B. said...

I had a few young dates with fern m., and at age 14 years old, she told me she was in love with me. I'll never forget it for it was my first true love by an opposite sex member. I'm was so devastated that fern died so young. She had a good and nice soul.

Paul K. said...

RB: I must know who you are. And you too, RSL. Weird to meet here. And what was that about Buffalo?

R.B. said...

I knew fern from junior high school in 1973 off peninsula and Lafayette drive. Plus knew her in hewlett high in 1976. I prefer to remain anonymous cause of my girlfriend (future wife?? ). But I will say I was very good friends with fern at one time and was devastated when I found out she died. I'm not sure how she really died but i think a serious disease. I know from high school she experimented with some party drugs but i don't think that killed her.

Ellen said...

Fern died from lymphoma. She was very ill, and was in hospice when she passed.

Ellen said...

I should add that she was at home with her loving husband at her side, and I know he made the journey much easier for her. Fern knew she was dying and was lucid until the end was very near. She got to say good-bye to many of her close friends and family.

R.B. said...

That's how my brother-in-law died. He died from non Hopkins lymphoma, and he died at age 47. He originally got treatment for that at Sloan Kettering in NYC with chemo and radiation which resolved that for 2 years however that so call cure from Sloan Kettering morphs into leukemia about 2 years down road from Sloan Kettering so called cure. It happens with 20% of people who get chemo and radiation regimen and I guess my brother in law wasn't so lucky and got it. It was a sad day when I had to see my nieces at age 11 and 13 years old see their young father buried. Life is rough and in reality nobody gets out of here on planet earth alive. Such is life.. (same with fern and soon all of us).

R.B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgan Gottfried said...

Thank you so much for this. Fern was my aunt and I love that she meant so much to you. She meant the world to me and I miss her every day.

xo

Morgan

Ellen said...

You meant the world to her, too, Morgan. She loved you with all her heart.

Saralee Rosenberg said...

What a perfect and beautiful post,Ellen. Though you say you haven't written about her in the depth you wanted, I feel as though I know her through your poignant description. She was lucky to have had your friendship and am certain she remains with you in mind and spirit.

Ellen said...

Thank you, Saralee. I do feel like she's with me ... and in some way, I think that maybe I've been writing about her without even realizing it. xo

Robin S said...

I knew Fern from Junior High school and High School. I can picture her with that great smile of hers. She was a year younger than me so we were in different grades. Somehow, we connected with each other. Maybe we had study hall together, who knows. My memories are of us laughing and having a great time.

Robin from Jr High North and Hewlett High School.