They’re in Chicago right now and I made an appointment to talk about my friend, Delle Chatman.
I knew I’d have plenty to talk about, but I brought a few things with me, along with a list to jog my memory. I had a weekly bulletin from St. Gertrude’s with her picture on the front; her obituary, written by her brother, Gregory; a mailing from 30 Good Minutes, a local PBS program about religion where she frequently appeared; the note she wrote in the hospital announcing that the cancer was back (I have it because it was my job was to disseminate it to her Yahoo groups). And of course, I brought her scarf, the one I selected at the gathering after her funeral.
I talked about our unlikely friendship and how she made everyone feel like they were her best friend. I recounted conversations and impressions. I believe I spoke with great affection most of the time, though with sadness and anger occasionally.
I was afraid I’d talk too fast, and be done long before my forty minutes were up. But I was still going strong when Erin, my StoryCorps partner, asked one final question:
“What would you say to her now if you could?”
My eyes filled with tears so quickly I had to pull myself together to answer. It was the only time I choked up.
In truth, I talk to Delle often, and at times I hear her voice: coaxing me, prodding me, scolding me, though always with the intent to push me to do better.
But I knew without a doubt what I would say if she were sitting across from me at Metropolis, green tea chai latte in front of her:
“Thank you. Thank you for seeing something in me I didn’t know was there, for pushing me into a new, frightening and exciting career, for directing my life even now. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for you.”
And thanks to Erin and Leslie at StoryCorps, for allowing me to share the story of my remarkable friend.
For more information on this terrific organization and to learn how you can make a recording, log onto StoryCorps.