Wednesday, August 10, 2011
My friend Judith
Three years ago, on a Sunday, when I was fundraising for Calcutta Rescue at the Kingston market Square, a lovely lady came to my stall and purchased a few of my little Fair Trade items that had been made in Kolkata by some of our handicraft employees. I explained that these men and women were either widows, handicapped, or otherwise disadvantaged people whom the organization is helping. Calcutta Rescue provides clinics, schools and vocational training for people who live either on the street or in slums in Kolkata (also known as Calcutta).
I had about 10 little pink crocheted coin bags displayed and Judy asked if I would mind if she purchased all of them. Imagine! Asking if she could buy all of them! As though she would need my permission. But that is so characteristic of what Judy was like. Never assuming. "I hate messing up your display," she said. I told her I would give her a discount if she took them all.
She asked if I would mind if she sold them in her little shop on Wolfe Island. "You buy them, they are yours to do as you wish." I said, always the pragmatic person I am. Judith had come back to Wolfe Island to care for her ailing mother. She had worked in New York for Armani for many years and had been a great asset to them. On Wolfe Island, she opened a delightful little shop and called it "Summer". She had the magic touch and I can honestly say it was the prettiest shop not only of all Wolfe Island but of all Kingston and Wolfe Island. She was like a little kid in a candy store, always sporting a radiant smile.
Wolfe Island is just a 20 minute free ferry ride from downtown Kingston and on the other side of the Island, one can take a short inexpensive ferry ride to the cute little town of Cape Vincent, New York. Many American tourists come to Kingston via Wolfe Island and many visitors to Kingston take the ferry over for a nice ride with beautiful view onto The Royal Military College and Fort Henry.
Judy's return from New York was received with enthusiam by Wolfe Islanders; many said she brought beauty to the island. Her little shop was located a few steps from the ferry and while waiting in line, travellers left their cars and spent a few minutes into the store, often coming out with a lovely purchase. Many became friends with her.
One thing led to another the day I met Judy and I mentioned that I had many more items she could chose from. I started supplying her with lots of colourful clothes and decorations for her store and soon we were the best of friends. We did not see each other as much as we wouldhave liked because on the days her store was closed, Judy would be off to hunt for beautiful things to fill her shelves, and caring for her mother was a very time-consuming affair. But we managed a few days in Toronto and I used to go and visit her on the island whenever I had a chance.
Judith was very keen on coming with me to India. In January 2010, she had the opportunity to travel with another woman from Wolfe Island and they visited the south of India but the trip was much too short so we planned to go together in November 2010. While in India and after she came back, Judith started coughing and not being well. No one was able to diagnose what the cause was. Eventually in December, she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
On January 10, 2011, Judy had appointments that spanned 3 hours at the hospital near my house so we arranged to meet there and have lunch together. When I saw her, I realized she was not well at all; it was a bitter cold day; she had had to shovel her driveway, get into her freezing car, cross on the ferry, find a parking spot near the hospital and walk the three or four hundred meters from the car to her appointment in the sub-zero weather. I walked home during her appointment and collected her in my car and we had a bowl of soup at my house; I did not want her to have to spend hours in the sterile, depressing environment of the hospital. She was hesitant, not wanting to "bother" me. She was terribly weak but wanted to look at the lovely things I had for her and was talking about opening her store for this summer although she knew she would not be very strong. I thought, and I think she did, that she would have perhaps a year before the cancer took her. I told her I would be here to help her in the spring with shopping, meals etc...
We said good bye and I headed off to Mexico. I came back On January 19th and two days later, read in the newspaper that she had passed away January 19th. That kind of news takes your breath away. I miss her tremendously. Her sister Denise, who lives out west, has kept the little shop open this summer as a tribute to Judith and I visited her last week and I can see she is just as artistic as Judy and Judy would be proud of her. But in another week, it will be the end of that also.
Friends come and go but their imprint remains; How privileged I am to have known Judith! A beautiful woman in every way.