If I Could Do it Over

January 13, 2022

Years ago, in another life, I met Amy Tunick at the beginning of my freshman year in college.  In those brief nine months, the two of us, so very different (I, then, a Roman Catholic from a small town who wanted to be a writer; she, a secular Jew from Miami who wanted to be an actor) bonded in such a way that when we chose different directions after that year, we stayed in touch over the next fifteen. The majority of the time, Amy initiated the contact, perhaps because she was single and I quickly became a young mother, or because she was the better friend.

Ours was that kind of relationship where time stopped and we were back at school, Freshmen girls trying to find our way, never missing a beat.  Amy, the extrovert, always had an outrageous story to tell yet was fascinated in hearing about what I considered my mundane life.  Amy, full of questions, full of curiosity, full of joy.  She never did become the actor she hoped for, though she was proud that hers was the voice of one of the Care Bears.

In her 40’s, Amy was diagnosed to the surprise and horror of all with pancreatic cancer.  Her doctor gave her six months to live.  Because she was Amy, she lived 31 more. She wrote a book during this time, pictured above, chronicling her illness and treatments with joy and positivity.  Here is what she wrote about friends:

“If you have a special friend or two that you know will be there for you during difficult times, someone who won’t run away or abandon you, consider yourself very lucky.  In order to have a friend, you have to be one.  Nurture and cherish your friendships.  Feed them so they can grow and blossom.  Friendship is a gift.”

Yes, friendship is a gift.  I was given a very special gift in Amy, and I took it for granted.  I share this blog because I regret with all my heart that my “busy” life, pre-occupations, and physical distance between us kept me from being there for her in her hardest transitions.  I am forever thankful that she had friends and family who did show up for her.  Today would have been Amy’s 63rd birthday.  Each birthday that has passed since Amy died at 47, I have felt my regret and offered it to her.  Knowing Amy, she has gathered those regrets to her and turned them into an armful of roses.

Be a friend to your friends. ~ Rosemary

If I Could Do It Over

In memory of Amy Turner Tunick

If I could do it over,

I would be a better friend

to you who called with news:

cancer of the pancreas. 

At 45.

Women weren’t supposed to get it.

I sympathized.  Worried.  Prayed.

But you were there  and   I was here.

I would call more often,

if I could do it over,

send more Hallmarks, a Care Bear,

ox-eye daisies.  Two Capricorns,

our favorite month was January

when the long-distance between us

dissolved in girlish conversation.

You, forever single and wandering,

me, forever married and rooted,

we admired the fabled grass

on the other side

of each other’s fences.

I’d paint a verbal picture of you

for all the world to hear,

if I could do it over,

Amy with your blonde-streaked wigs

and Serenity Prayer

Amy with your vegan lifestyle and

your fuchsia scarves,

Amy with your ebony and white

toy poodles.

I would pay mind to the passing months,

flying by like geese in formation,

constant and ordained,

if I could do it over        and

I wouldn’t bury myself in mid-life

passages, turning inward, ignoring the urging

of my heart that never forgot you.

I wouldn’t receive the news from your mother

in a letter    because I would know

I would know that in the final months

the tumor grew,

if I could do it over,

would know that your brave fight and bright Spirit

had no choice but to surrender.

I would be with you at your bedside,

with your family, dear friends, and new beau.

I would tell an old story, hold your slender hand,

make you laugh

one more time

as you journeyed home

through this universe

that you believed

“is unfolding as it should.”

© Rosemary McMahan