Northwest Herald

Oliver: Sudden losses can remind us how much we need to hold our loved ones close

When we’re counting our blessings, many of us hopefully can say that we have some longtime friends. They’ve seen us through the years and manage to stick around even when they see us when we’re not quite at our best.

Sometimes it’s easy to start thinking that they’ll always be there. After all, they’ve been there for decades, a steady, comforting presence. Too often we can begin to take them for granted, not because we don’t appreciate them, but because it’s unthinkable that they would disappear.

However, life is fragile, and sometimes even the people that we’ve come to depend on and love and cherish get sick. Worse yet, they die.

My friend Linda was one of those people in my life. She was a vibrant, smart and beautiful woman. It never mattered to me that she also was old enough to be my mother. That always came in handy when I wanted to talk something over.

She was one-half of one of the cutest couples I’ve ever known. She and her husband, Jim, had been together for decades. One need only look at them for a little while to know that they had something genuinely special between them. Their love was evident in everything they said and everything they did. They enjoyed each other’s company. For a lot of us, they were what the kids call “couples goals.”

I suppose that’s why it’s not surprising that most of my fondest memories of Linda are with Jim. There were countless gatherings over the years, as well as a memorable outing to the McHenry County Garden Walk.

Linda, whose eyes were the color of blue cornflowers, lit up rooms when she was there. She just had such a fun spirit. Both she and Jim could tell a great story. Not surprisingly, those stories usually were hilarious, and they usually had to do with the two of them as a couple.

Then there was her wonderful relationship with her grown daughter, Wendy, who is also a friend of mine. I have to say that I always admired their mother-daughter bond, which always seemed to be closer to best friends than what I had with my own mother.

When any of our mutual friends needed help with something, Linda was right there to lend a hand. She was forever volunteering to make someone’s life better.

As it turns out, mere days before she fell ill, Linda had made Tony and me a meatloaf dinner in the days after my surgery. She was also a great cook, so it was delicious.

I had every intention of asking her for the recipe for her most excellent mashed potatoes. And I had written out a thank-you card that I had tucked into the bag with the containers that I knew she’d want returned.

I had hoped to catch up with her, too. We hadn’t really had a chance to chat in a long while. Life sometimes does that. But I have no doubt that our relationship was as strong as ever.

I’m just sorry that I didn’t have a chance to tell her I loved her one last time.

In a few short days, after a rollercoaster series of improvements and setbacks, my dear friend Linda was transferred to hospice care. Shortly thereafter, she died.

To say that all of this is a shock would be an understatement. It feels a lot like what happened to my father, who was in the hospital for nine days before he died. I didn’t see that one coming, either.

My faith tells me that I will see my dear friend Linda again, though no doubt I and so many others will miss her terribly in the meantime. And we’ll really have to rally around Jim and Wendy, who will feel this loss the most acutely.

Life is fragile. We just never know when it might be the last time we get to say goodbye to our friends, our relatives or our mates. So much of life is out of our control, and bad things happen to good people every day.

However, we can make sure that the people closest to us know how much we appreciate and love them. Because we just never know.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.