Wednesday, November 05, 2014

"it is the survivor who dies."

L.M. Montgomery did not always have an easy time making friends. One gets the impression reading her journals that she was quite particular about with whom she was friends. I did find, often, a hint of snobbery in her words. She was not always gracious about those whom she did not regard as intellectually her equal. Nonetheless, she was, by and large, a woman often lonely. She kept her sorrows well-hidden.

On January 25, 1919, Montgomery lost the woman, her cousin, who was her closest friend; the only one with whom she felt confident to confide in. It was a hard blow, and one that is keenly felt for the rest of her life.

On February 7, 1919, she reflects on the death of Frederica, whom she called "Frede."
Her breath grew shorter and shorter. At seven it ceased. She died as peacefully and gently as a tired child might fall asleep. She died. And I live to write it! Frede is dead. "After life's fitful fever she sleeps well." But I wake and must face the dreary years without her. I must live as long as I can for my children's sake. I must live -- without that blithe comradeship, that intellectual companionship, that faithful, earnest friendship -- live, knowing that Frede will never come again under my roof -- that never again will come to me in a letter addressed in her old familiar hand -- that I will never again hear her laugh -- never save up a joke to tell her -- never walk with her again under the Park Corner birches or over the old bridge in the summer twilight! How can I go on living when half my life has been wrenched away, leaving me torn and bleeding in heart and soul and mind. I had one friend -- one only -- in whom I could absolutely trust -- before whom, I could in Emerson's splendid definition "think aloud," -- and she has been taken from me. Truly, as has been said, in such an instance as this, "it is the survivor who dies." Yes, Frede, you did not suffer the pangs of death. It was I -- I -- as you would have suffered had it been I who went away!
Montgomery did not find her husband to be the kind of companion she had in Frede. While she was a dutiful and loyal wife, it is clear that she did not find her husband a great deal of comfort. It is not to him she turned for comfort in the subsequent days after Frede's death. In fact, it it shortly after this that Ewan Macdonald's mental illness takes hold. And despite being the wife of a minister, it seems that God is little comfort, either. I don't get the sense from any of her writings that she had an intimate knowledge of God.

She may have suffered terrible grief at the loss of Frede, but to have had such a friendship was surely a comfort. We don't all have the gift of that kind of friend in our lifetimes.

(Taken from The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, Volume II: 1910-1921, Edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterson.)