Cathy and I became friends in our Junior High School biology class in Missouri when I teamed up with her because I knew that I could manage to complete the unpleasant assignments of dissecting formaldehyde-preserved Ascaris worm, frog, and rat, which were mandatory for honors courses in the 1960s; and she was paralyzed with disgust. The instructor said that the dissections would help us understand the miracle of life, which even at the innocent age of fifteen seemed very harsh to me. I felt a hollow sorrow for the little rotting bodies that we had to work with. I felt sorry for Cathy too, and I told her that she could just take notes while I worked with the foul smelling, pitiful, dead little animals to complete the assignments. Cathy and I stayed friends for the next fifty-plus years, exchanging frequent paper letters telling each other about wildflowers that we enjoyed on walks, how our gardens grew, and our lives. She married twice, I tried and failed. I visited Cathy occasionally as time passed and we went riding on her horses in the Missouri woods near her home. We went on a few vacations together. I taught her how to canoe in the crystal clear waters of the Ozarks. We explored nature habitats in Missouri and Kansas where she could name every plant and bird. Cathy became a live animal model researcher, and I became an animal rights activist. We never talked about that dichotomy. Then fifty years later catastrophic suicides in first my life and then in her life nullified our friendship as if it had never been. Drugs and alcohol appear to have also been a corrosive influence. While grieving she told me that she had shattered her leg while riding impaired. Now even walking is difficult for her. What if I had been with her, her horse tumbling into mine? I have sworn to myself to never again have anything to do with druggies, no second chances, no do-overs. They are too destructive. Nothing more to say except that I wish Cathy and her husband well, as I am sure that she wishes me equally well. Our was a long-time friendship but now it is lost.
Caption: My long-time friend Cathy and her husband
on our last hike through the Kansas Flint Hills
scanned oil painting by Annmarie Throckmorton 2002