I just lost one of my best girlfriends. Her name was Sheila Ginesin.
Sheila died of melanoma. So, as we begin the summer season, of course I am reminded of the importance of using sun block and limiting sun exposure. People do die from skin cancer. Sheila, like many others, first discovered she had skin cancer when her doctor noticed some skin changes. They were removed and we all thought, "No big deal". But her particular brand of skin cancer kept coming back. It spread to other organs and eventually killed her.
I know it's important to remind ourselves about the dangers of skin cancer, but I'm not writing this to talk about Sheila's disease. I wanted to talk about our friendship.
This is the age of the Real Housewives and other reality shows that would lead you to believe the worst thing you could have is a woman for a friend. The women argue and fight in almost every episode. They sabotage each other, lie to each other, revel in the failures of their friends and keep each other constantly on guard by playing up a friend's perceived shortcomings. I know that women can be catty, selfish, jealous and conniving, but I resent the way this is becoming the definition of women's friendships. People who treat you that way are not your friends.
Sheila and I met when we were both busy adults building careers. This is not the point at which close lifelong friendships usually develop. Most such close associations come earlier in life when attending school, camp, college or at work when you spend lots of time together. I can't even tell you when we went from being acquaintances who occasionally met for dinner to intimate friends. We were not the kind of people who spoke every day or who even saw each other frequently, but at some point just knowing she was around became one of the cornerstones of my sense of well-being.
Sheila was someone who supported me wholeheartedly. She was a champion of me and my causes. She was a fierce defender of my right to be and do exactly what I wanted to do, and she knew the true meaning of sharing. She shared her whole life with me. She was the glue in many of my social circles. She was also very protective. If Sheila thought someone in my life was wrong for me, she let me know it, and she was usually right. But, she never said, "I told you so." She wasn't interested in being right. She was only interested in my happiness.
I can't quantify the loss of that kind of support. There is a huge gap in my life. My foundation has been shaken. Though I didn't speak to her every day when she was alive, I miss her every day. When she died, I realized that the world was a lesser place because no one will ever get to meet her again. I know that I am a better person for having known her. She embodied the meaning of friendship, and by doing so she enhanced my life.
What Sheila and I shared doesn't resemble anything that I have seen on TV. They would never make a reality show out of our friendship. Who would watch two people getting along, having fun, allowing each other to be themselves without judgment? Sheila was really funny and she knew how to enjoy life. I was Ethel to her Lucy. I am so glad that I knew her and have so many wonderful memories of the times we spent together.
The day Sheila died, I reached out to her family. The next day I reached out to my other women friends. I am blessed to have several women friends who are as wonderful and supportive as Sheila. They are each unique and quite dear to me. These women don't necessarily know each other, but they know of each other because they are always in my conversations. Each of them asks, "How is Sheila, Jody, Laura, Angela, Linda and Kathy?" whenever we speak.
That's really how we women get through life. Our true girlfriends celebrate the good times with us and remind us of who we really are during the bad times, when we tend to forget. When I heard about Huma Abedin -- the pregnant wife of the disgraced Congressman, Anthony Weiner -- my first thought was, "I hope she has some really great girlfriends". I hope you do too.