The Death of a Friend: Esther Bernhardt, 1937-2019

Yesterday, Esther Bernhardt, a dear friend for at least twenty years, died. I was prepared for this death—her granddaughter had let me know that Esther had had a stroke and was not likely to survive it—but I have lived long enough to know that even when you are prepared, the death of someone you love fills you with grief. As indeed it should.

It amazes me that only a few weeks ago we met for lunch at Barnes & Noble and had the type of conversation that I love best. We talked about books, politics, movies, and family. With Esther, I could let my mind range free, and she was always interested, even if she wasn’t familiar with what I was talking about. And for me, that is quite a gift, one that I never take for granted.

Long-time readers might remember past posts about Esther. Born in 1937, she grew up in rural Maine, and I liked nothing better than to hear stories of her girlhood. Even though only twenty  years separated us, it seemed to me that Esther grew up in a time that was far, far removed from my own. She remembered when many roads were not paved and what a treat it was to ride on a tarred road. She told of going to girl scout meetings and walking home alone for miles in the cold and the dark to find bean stew waiting for her. She laughed as she remembered her school bus that had long wooden seats on each side and windows that were only in the front.

“That bus was so dark,” Esther told me the last time we met. “I never could see who I was going to sit next to. I don’t know why that bothered me, but it did.”

“Because you were a child, and those things matter when you’re young. Sometimes even when you’re not young,” I said.

“Right,” she replied with a twinkle in her eyes. And, yes, Esther really did have a twinkle in her eyes. She was the kind of person who had a keen sense of humor and appreciated the ridiculous nature of everyday life. Whenever we got together, we always had a good laugh. Esther was just plain fun to be with.

Exactly a week ago today, Esther called and left a message. She had a new phone number and didn’t want me to think it was a telemarketer when I saw the unfamiliar number. I laughed when I heard that message because that’s exactly what I thought. Immediately, I called her back.

I knew her birthday was at the end of the month, and I also knew she loved my apple crisp.

“How about if I come over with an apple crisp to celebrate your birthday?” I asked.

“Sounds lovely,” she said, and we made a date for Monday, November 25.

Unfortunately, she is gone, and we won’t be able to celebrate together. But I will make an apple crisp in her honor and give thanks to all the wonderful times we shared.

I will also give thanks that Esther died exactly the way she wanted, at home, surrounded by her beloved family. She had a long life filled with both joy and pain, and when we last met, Esther told me, “I’ve had a good life.”

She certainly did.

Farewell, dear friend. How I will miss you. The road to your house was never long and sitting in your bright, cozy kitchen was one of the best places to be.





56 thoughts on “The Death of a Friend: Esther Bernhardt, 1937-2019”

  1. I’m going to miss Esther so much. Have been thinking about her all day. She was a special person.

  2. What a special lady Laurie and what a blessing you knew her. Those special times you had together will always stay with you and through your beautiful tribute we got to know her a little too. It will be lovely to make the apple crisp in her honour 💜🕊 xxx

  3. Each day we have is a gift and you were lucky to have the gift of Esther’s presence in your life.

  4. What a gift your friendship was to you both. I’m sorry for your great loss, Laurie. The final goodbye is so hard. I think making apple crisp on her birthday will become a fine annual tradition in her memory.

  5. goodness! I was just praying for you all when this came up!! A lovely tribute that made me cry-You made me miss her too. Peace to you and all her loved ones. I am glad she had you on this journey.

  6. What a lovely tribute you have written to your friend Esther, and I like the way you described conversation with her ”I could let my mind range free and she was always interested”…i know exactly what you mean, that is a sign of a very special friendship.

  7. The pictures and your narrative convey what a special friend she was. How fortunate to have had that for 20 years. It is neat that your age gap allowed you to share different perspectives and you could learn and grow together.

    1. Oh, you bet! I have always had older friends as well as friends my own age. At some point, I hope to befriend a younger woman and keep the cycle going. There is so much we can learn through our friendships with people who are not the same age as we are.

  8. The surest sign of the closeness of your relationship is the fact that I feel as though I knew her, too. Only a true friend can pay tribute as you have, and I’m so glad that you were part of one another’s lives.

  9. Losing one you love is always painful. The rest of us can offer kind words, but we don’t feel your particular loss. I sincerely hope as time passes that only the wonderful memories you have are left to keep you smiling. Esther would have loved this post. Maybe a book about friendship should be on your to-do-list because everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to have an Esther in their life. Take care, Laurie, and I think apple crisp on the 25th sounds like a great plan, but have some tissues handy.

  10. A wonderful tribute to a dear friend, Laurie. I agree with shoreacres that I feel like I know her in some way through your words. I am sure you will think of her every time you eat apple crisp, and I am sure Esther would love to be remembered that way too.

  11. I am so glad you knew her and so sorry she has died. She sounds a remarkable woman and a good friend – the kind of person we all want to have in our lives and to be for others.

  12. I do not know “Esther” but your words, tribute make me like her. It is a blessing to know someone like Esther and thanks for sharing her memories. I am sure she will be missed in a good way.

  13. A very touching tribute Laurie – I had a tear in my eye as you conveyed so well what she meant to you and how much you will miss her. x

  14. Laurie, I’m sorry for your loss. Anyone with a twinkle in their eye is good to have as a friend. She sounds lovely. You are right, of course, that there is no way to prepare for the finality of death. Arms around you.

  15. Oh, I love this tribute to your dear friend! How wonderful she lived her life fully, right up to the very end and didn’t suffer for too long. I took the Morning Prayer service at church today and our prayers asked God to grant anyone who had died recently, ‘peace and new life in God’s Kingdom where there is no more pain and suffering’.
    I am sorry for your loss of a friend; you will sorely miss her. xx

  16. I’m so sorry that Esther has died, Laurie. It is wonderful to be able to talk to someone who is always interested, even if they aren’t completely familiar with the subject. I remember Mama being that way. Your last paragraph is lovely – it has the character of a traditional Irish blessing.

  17. Boy Laurie, this is a wonderful tribute to Esther… I am sorry for your loss, but so grateful you had her friendship. There are simply important people who come into our lives, and irreplaceable ones, too. She sounds like a real gift to you. love is all that matters in the end, is it not?? thinking of you…

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