From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

A Gift from Ute

Driving down I-95, I could not believe where I was going. It was a Saturday morning in September 1991 when the phone rang, and I was informed that my dear Ute had been struck down by a hit-and-run driver while out for her early morning run. She was in a coma and it didn’t look as if she was going to pull through.

I was in a daze when I arrived at the hospital and found her husband in a family waiting room amongst some friends I vaguely recognized. Waiting in the hall was Ute’s best friend, Linda. We had met a few months earlier at a surprise birthday party Ute had given for her husband.

Ute didn’t have many female friends. Most women were intimidated by her extraordinary beauty, never giving themselves a chance to know she was equally beautiful on the inside. Linda had been Ute’s best friend for twenty years. I met Ute while both our sons were attending the same boarding school in New England. It was not long before Ute and I created a powerful bond and friendship.

Now, in the hospital corridor, Linda and I embraced and cried as if we were the oldest of friends. The next week was a nightmare for everyone, with daily vigils that drew us closer to the inevitable. Friday, the family made the heartrenching decision to disconnect Ute from life support. One week earlier, Linda and I barely knew each other and now we were walking hand in hand, blinded by our tears, down a long hallway to say our private good-byes to our dear friend. As Ute’s final moments went by, bells began going off throughout the hospital. It was a surreal moment, almost as if everyone should be made aware of our loss. The world, just at that moment, had lost a human being of extraordinary grace and dignity. The ordeal was over.

The friendship between Linda and me could have ended right then and there, but the most amazing thing happened: During the weeks that followed, we found ourselves calling each other every day, sometimes twice a day. We would comfort and support one another through our disbelief that Ute was gone. We were of one mind and heart.

We made time in our schedules to see each other, often going out to dinner with our husbands, Herb and Hal. We soon discovered we both had the same white dishes, the same sheets, the same coffee mugs and the same toaster with the ugly red knobs. We both were artistic and creative, loved animals and beautiful things. Most of all, we loved Ute.

As time went by, the four of us took a cruise together, enjoyed each other’s families, celebrated holidays and events together, and carried on a tradition that began many years earlier between Ute and Linda and their husbands. Every year, we would spend New Year’s Eve together, just the four of us, no matter what.

Linda and I have forged a rare bond, closer than two sisters. Our identical sense of humor keeps us laughing for days. We are extremely trusting and protective of one another, like the comfort of a warm blanket. Linda is at the center of many friendships. Each and every friend feels blessed and honored to be counted as part of her life. She has helped me to be able to tell the important people in my life, “I love you,” something I used to find difficult to do.

We both lead busy lives. I am a designer of handcrafted art cards, with a studio in my home. Linda, a psychiatric nurse, went back to school at age forty-one to get her doctorate in psychology. While Ute was there for most of the years of school and study, I was there for the culmination. On that joyous graduation day, sitting in the audience among Linda’s family, Ute was there, too.

Five years later, tragedy struck again. Our dearest Hal developed cancer and died within seven weeks. Linda was left without her soul mate of thirty-one years. There were times that I felt so helpless, as my heart broke for her and her two wonderful sons. But I knew I was helpful by just being there whenever she needed me.

The day before Hal died, an unbelievable thing happened. Linda, after arriving home from the hospital that evening, began sorting through the day’s mail. Among the various envelopes, she came upon a piece of junk mail advertising an upcoming seminar. As she was about to discard it, she stopped in total confusion. The mail was addressed to Ute but at Linda’s address. Ute’s address was crossed out and Linda’s address was crudely scrawled in, in pencil, and in a most unusual, almost primitive, handwriting. How was this possible and what did it mean? Never, in five years, had Linda ever received mail addressed to Ute. We all were shocked and bewildered, and realized by the next day, after Hal’s death, that there was only one explanation: This was Ute’s way of letting us know she was there, waiting for Hal.

As if this phenomenon was not enough, it would seem that Ute had to be absolutely certain we understood. While getting ready for Hal’s funeral, Linda’s sons suggested that they put a picture of Ute into Hal’s coffin, along with other meaningful memorabilia. They searched through whatever photographs they could find and came up with only one. Stunningly, it was a long forgotten one of Ute, smiling brightly, holding a huge balloon that said, “Welcome Home.” We knew our friend was so close that we could almost reach out and touch her. She certainly was touching us.

The joy of Ute’s friendship did not die. Instead, it lives on in the treasured relationship that Linda and I now share. Throughout these past six years, we have grown to value each other more and more, never once taking our friendship for granted and always realizing it evolved through very unique circumstances. We hold our friendship in the highest regard and are both entrenched in the belief that the love, respect and joy we bring to each other’s lives would never be possible without this “Gift from Ute.”

Wendi R. Morris

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