Tule Non-Fiction
Release Date:

Mar 14, 2024



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Biography of A Friendship


Marie-Claude Arnott

Their friendship was a defining constant in their lives…

When Marie-Claude (MC) met Juliette in an office in Switzerland, she was starting a new job. Juliette was already established, sophisticated, and refreshingly blunt. The younger MC was drawn to Juliette’s wit and zest for life, and they quickly became friends. Even when careers, marriages, motherhood, moves, and tragedy separated them across decades and continents, their friendship thrived.

Then came the day MC saw a shocking photo of Juliette looking exhausted and aged. She pleaded for her friend to visit a doctor, but neither was prepared for the devastating diagnosis: pancreatic cancer. Both women were crushed but determined to make the most of their remaining months together. MC visited Juliette in France and later Switzerland, where MC agreed to accompany Juliette on her final journey. As the two friends discussed their friendship, lives, and views on death, MC was consumed by doubt. Could she be the friend Juliette needed?

“Be a part of Juliette’s conversation” was her answer, and her final gift to Juliette is this beautiful story of their friendship.

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California, February 2014

I look out the window as if it were the last time and see it for the first time. Nature plays with my mind even from the sofa where I lie. I don’t hear the chirping of the sparrows sipping in the fountain, but I hear it in my head, and the hummingbird fluttering over a salvia bloom reminds me that blooming perennials always linger through California’s mild winters. Even the garden is in transition, neither dormant nor growing.

I ponder the dualities in life and its conundrums. I take in details, as in before it might be too late. Is this happening to her too? I can’t bear to think of her by name. I can’t bear the reason I’ll fly to Geneva in a few days.

This is why I take my mind back to the natural world. To the deer betting on a new rosebud behind the wrought-iron fence. To the wild turkeys gobbling at a courting male that interrupted their cryptic cackles. To the sneaking coyote obsessed with a limping fawn protected by two determined does. And I get it. For a coyote to keep on living, a limping fawn may die.

Since I arrived in California, a week ago, I remember that I irritated my friend when I complained about my constant coming and going between Vancouver and California—our home for seventeen years and where two of our children live. I also visit my aging parents and relatives in France and take trips with Jim, my husband.

My traveling creates physical and emotional disruptions and moving from France to Switzerland, and back, then to the United States, and finally to Canada, was challenging. But I understand my friend’s irritation at my complaining.

In Vancouver, my rather quiet life doesn’t compare with her life of hardships. And, here, in California, I enjoy part of the day with three rambunctious grandchildren and a dog in one house, and quiet evenings with my stepdaughter in the other.

As I gaze out the window of the ‘quiet house,’ the oak trees seem greener and the bark of the redwoods brighter, but it’s from the rain that finally fell on the golden hills of the East Bay. The dry grasses will soon morph into a landscape of green pastures and black cattle. The prospect of their return is reassuring, as the evidence that life will go on as usual. Yet going on never means that things stay the same.

When the first farmers came to the Far West in the late 1800s, California’s rolling hills stayed green through late summer until they imported a Mediterranean type of grass. When the invasion became evident, it was too late; the landscape had morphed into the iconic golden hills we see today. That’s what happens with cancer, except that it’s an uninvited parasite that doesn’t let go, even if only psychologically.

Since then, much else changed too. Large clusters of houses spread on the rolling hills of the vast open space of the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, here in Danville, the Old Wild West is still present, thanks to the preservation of historic buildings and the shop owners who care enough to keep the spirit going. But it’s a new—what I’d call—work order out there.

Some people commute to Silicon Valley, abiding by working hours that are never totally on or off, not unlike the California seasons. It’s a lifestyle that blurs the boundary between personal and working life and flexibility and availability of time. As if only work and time matter.

I am no stranger to impermanence with my regular trips between Canada, California, France, and Switzerland, where my friend is waiting for me. Nor after mothering a blended family. Nor after graduating from university after a midlife crisis. I tend to resist change now, but by all accounts, whether it’s a perennial plant that will die someday or an acquired work culture overcome by a pandemic, much in life is temporary.

My thoughts were cut short by a nap; the afternoon dawdled from seconds into minutes that rushed into hours. Dusk has darkened the garden. In the centuries-old oak tree, the resident owl hoots at the nearing night.

Each day has a beginning and an end, and I am ending this day of February 2014 knowing that, in a few days, I’ll be in Geneva to ‘accompany’ my friend. That’s what she said, and I have never done this before. What happens when your friend has a short time to live? I don’t know.

I dread that belated rite of passage of a sort. I also stumble on questions with no real answers. Will I be strong enough not to fake hope? We are beyond that. What will our last days together be like? I don’t want to think about it. Can anyone tell me?

Most troubling is whether I’ll be enough of an ‘accompanying’ friend on that journey.

Of course, I couldn’t have known then that it’d be more of a crusade than a journey. Nor that our differences didn’t separate us as much as my friend wanted me to believe. It wouldn’t even have made sense that this would be her last gift. One that would set me free from the same mold that secretly restrained her. Nor could I have expected that our friendship could help other women understand why they feel the way they do.

Meanwhile, a stubborn case of bronchitis makes me wonder whether this is how health begins to fail sometimes. I struggle with the idea of the impermanence of life because it’s bound to the irrevocability of death, and I keep hearing my friend’s wise words over the telephone: “Marie-Claude… I can’t go against it… It’s in my destiny.”

End of Excerpt

Biography of A Friendship is available in the following formats:

ISBN: 978-1-962707-24-4

March 14, 2024

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