Sometimes, when you meet a girlfriend, you just know.

That was Jill. We met in 1998. She was my labor coach because Phil was on the road. She was the only one with me when Zane was born. We spent New Year’s Eve 1999 together, my son’s first and New Year’s Eve 2007 together, her last.

So I sit here with my tradition, on this third anniversary of her death,

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and I drink my coffee from one of many mugs she gave me and I read the friendship book she gave me

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And the pain is not as searing and the memories are sweeter.

If you visit and want to have coffee, I may not allow you to drink from this cup. I hide it away in the back of my cupboard. Selfishly. And I realized it for what it was. And I said that in 2010 I wanted to make more time for the people that were still here. To pay attention to the details. To bless someone by thinking of them. It wouldn’t be Jill, but I could try to emulate the way she loved. I could pay attention to my friends, my family and give them my time and my heart and things with secret meanings.

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I think I did ok. But I want to do better.

Last year I told you about The Shit Shovel. This year, The Jim Mug.  This is how I want to live.

Jim Mug

2006. Not a stellar year, but one with lots of memories–good and bad.  This one is good. One of my favorites, actually.

I was visiting Jill for a not-so-good reason, but we made the best of it. To take her mind off of her collapsed lung, we talked about the writing conference I was to attend after I visited. My first ever writing conference. A friend had told me that I should have at least one chapter written so I could give it to interested editors and agents (as if!) So I had these characters in mind and maybe an inkling of an idea for a story.  (I didn’t know ANYthing about writing then. I know less now.)

Naming characters is a problem for me.

Jill and I had went round and round with names and I needed an old man name. Nothing seemed right. My friend Kim called to see how things were and conversation turned to the old man name and someone (can’t remember who now) said: Orville.  That was it. Orville was my old man.

Phil called later asking how things in South Carolina were.  I was trying to explain to him how excited I was that Orville found his name. I said, “So Jim and I finally figured out that his name is Orville!!!”

“Jim?”

“No. Not Jim, Orville.”

“You said ‘Jim and I figured out Orville…’ WHO is Jim?”

Oh Lord. I’m hundreds of miles away from my husband talking about another man. Jim. How do I explain this??

If your brain works like mine and gets over excited like mine, then when you’re talking about your story and your characters you start combining names. Like Jill and Kim and you get Jim.

Thank God my husband KNOWS there is no man on this earth for me other than him. We laughed it off and I told Jill about it after and we laughed (for years!) about it.  Then she said, “If you mix it up the other way, Kim and Jill you get Kill. Kill Jim.”

And I vowed that my horror stories would always have scenarios that led to a Kill Jim moment.

Then.

Out of nowhere, Jill, with collapsed lung and all, springs off her couch and enters her “closet” of gifts.  She comes out with the Jim mug.

Jim Mug

She’d bought it at Goodwill because it just called to her and she knew she’d need it someday.