If you hadn’t noticed, I took a brief hiatus from blogging. About three weeks ago, just before Memorial Day, my husband and I took a quick road trip to Tampa, Florida for his birthday so all of my extraneous energy was directed to that impromptu endeavor. And then the day after we returned, Memorial Day, I learned that a dear friend suddenly passed away. So it’s been difficult to collect my thoughts, much less write them or anything else down.
But here I am, back at a blank page, ready to reveal the ruminations I’ve had since my friend and soror Sherry “Elle” Richardson passed away, two weeks ago today, on her birthday.
I met Sherry in 1992. I was a freshman at the University of Georgia in Athens, and she was a transfer student and sophomore. I met her along with another girl whom she had befriended before they met me. The three of us were fast friends, initially bonding over our desire to not be there at all. LOL! The three of us didn’t want to attend a white school, plain and simple. All devotees of “A Different World,” we were hungry to experience a historically black college or university, an HBCU, for ourselves. We wanted the funky marching band, the opportunity to meet our own Dwayne Wayne, Shazza Zulu or Julian Day (dependent on your taste in men), the endearing yet tough tutelage of black professors and the adventures that unfolded in dormitories teeming with people who looked like you but were from everywhere. Instead we were the minority, one of a few black faces at a school where we expected to learn but we couldn’t guarantee much else. But over time, we grew to love our historically white university and all that went with being a Georgia Bulldog in Athens at that time.
If college was a trip and it was, then Sherry was my travel agent. We had so many adventures together! A sheltered preacher’s daughter, I longed to party a la Ariel in “Footloose,” and Sherry was the perfect partner in partying. We practiced dancing in the mirror before we could “shake what your mama gave ya” in parties at Memorial Hall, where most on-campus parties were held! And if we felt like it, we ventured to Atlanta and partied in clubs all over town too. Our belief was it we weren’t dripping sweat when we left a party then we hadn’t partied.
But Sherry wasn’t all about partying though. We both wanted to establish ourselves as leaders on that colossal campus. One of the ways that we concocted to do so was to pledge a sorority. We noticed that most of the black women who seemed to be leaders were members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, plus they won all of the step shows and looked good doing so. Since she was a year ahead of me, Sherry was ready to pledge, but as a freshman, I wasn’t quite ready or qualified. Sherry decided that one of the ways that she could get the attention of the Deltas was to take part in the Miss Black University of Georgia pageant, which was sponsored by the sorority. Not only did she take part, she won the competition! I’m sure you can guess what happened after that. And when I was ready to pledge the following year, 1995, she successfully advocated for me to become a member of our illustrious sorority.
After she graduated in 1995 and I graduated in 1996, we kept in touch. In fact, I introduced her to many of childhood friends who promptly loved her as much as I did. In fact, some of these friends hung out with her without me at times. One of our first adventures as brand new adults was a girls trip we took to Jamaica in 1997. It was such a heady experience to travel with your girls on your own dime! The four of us belted out our rendition of TLC’s “Creep” over and over and over again at a karaoke spot one night. I remember shutting down a “hole in the wall” club another night. One day, we watched a brave friend jump from the cliff at Rick’s Cafe in Negril. We called the trip the “Girl Dems Sugar,” a song by Beenie Man that we heard repeatedly wherever we went on the island. And since Sherry was a film producer by profession, she filmed our adventures in a beautiful video that I have to figure out a way to see now since no one has a VCR anymore.
Speaking of a VCR, fast forward years later, in 2009, several of us caravanned from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to see the inauguration of President Obama. It was amazing that Sherry, one of my first friends at an institution where I feared I would be lost as a minority, and I witnessed the inauguration of the first black president of this country together. We bought thermal underwear, hand warmers and more to brave the bone-chilling temperatures on the mall that memorable day and shed it all to stun at the Southern Ball that night.
And then in September 2012, we were back in Jamaica again as one of our friends, a childhood friend who now claimed Sherry as one of her besties, was getting married on the island. We were roommates, and it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up in a way that is sometimes hard to do as adults with jobs and other responsibilities. As we were there for a wedding, we discussed what love and marriage meant for us and pondered what that would look like for us as women nearing 40 years old.
That next year, 2013, I helped Sherry celebrate her 40th birthday at a Hawaiian luau-themed party she had a her home. A month later, she came to my Southern tea-themed bridal shower followed by my wedding in August of that same year. As college students who lived down the hall from another one another, we saw each other every day. Naturally, as single women staking our claim in our chosen professions following college graduation, we didn’t see each other every day anymore. But we saw each other pretty regularly when our extended group of girls got together to explore the city from brunches, Memorial Day picnics, sisterhood retreats (which she created) at various homes and destinations, the “Sex and the City” movie premiere and more.
But I must admit, when I got married, I cocooned myself in newlywed bonding and didn’t avail myself to random hanging as much as I once did. I noticed the same pattern among friends who had gotten married before I did so I realized it was normal although not always advisable for maintaining friendships. When I heard the news of Sherry’s passing, I realized it had been quite some time since I had seen my friend…I only hope that Sherry knew how much I treasured my friendship with her over the years although recent life events dictated my time.
Although I am a committed Christian, I cannot pretend that I have an inkling as to why God chose to call my friend away from this earthly realm. Since her homegoing, as I’ve walked throughout my house or driven somewhere, found myself saying, “Imagine Sherry is no longer here?” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve experienced the passing of friends, family members and church family, but it doesn’t make it easier or predictable. These experiences only emphasize that life is truly a transitory state. We should savor all that this life, though temporal, has to offer, but most importantly, we have to be saved or become a Christian to go to Heaven, which lasts for eternity.
So that’s all I have except to say I will miss and love her forever. And I thank God I knew her…
Rest well Sherry…Save a seat for me in eternity…