by Barb, listening to the gulls outside her window and feeling wistful
In normal circumstances, eulogies come after a person is gone, which has always seemed like a terrible waste to me. And because my friend Lea Wait has been so incredibly open and generous about this part of her life, the last part, I have decided to be open as well.
Lea Wait is my friend and I will miss her terribly.
Lea probably doesn’t even remember the first time we corresponded. I was the editor of the Sisters in Crime New England newsletter and I reached out to her to see if we could feature an interview with her. I don’t know exactly when this was, but it was when the newsletter was still laid out in Quark, printed at a printer, and stuffed into envelopes with labels and stamps, so you do the math.
Lea graciously replied and answered my interview questions. She was a former executive with AT&T, the single mother of four daughters, adopted when they were older from four different countries. By the time of the interview, she was a published author, living in Maine full-time with her relatively new husband. I thought, “This woman is really cool.”
Over the next few years, I got to know Lea a little bit more, through Sisters in Crime New England and the New England Crime Bake, but she wasn’t much more than an acquaintance in 2010, when things changed for me. Suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly freed from my corporate job, I finally had the prospect of spending an extended period of time in Maine. My first novel was scheduled to be published that September. I had a new and different life to figure out.
Our house was in Boothbay Harbor, and Lea was in Edgecomb just up the road. I don’t know what caused me to do it, because it is completely unlike me, but I sent her an e-mail saying I was in the area and would love to get together. Lea wrote back an incredibly warm e-mail (I still have it) and invited my husband Bill and me to dinner at her house.
We went to that dinner and the rest, as they say, is history. We just clicked. I liked Lea’s husband Bob a lot, Bill liked Lea, and Bill and Bob got on like a house afire. Lea and Bob were fun companions, fabulous to eat and drink and converse with. We never ran out of things to talk about.
But more than that, they were just a little older than us, and several steps ahead of us. I remember saying to Bill as we drove home that first night, “A writer and an artist living in Maine. It can be done.” I meant, “We could do that, too.”
Lea and I corresponded and talked and visited pretty constantly after that. We had a lot in common, past corporate jobs, this blog, and eventually even the same agent and editor. Basically, we were two women from north Jersey who had fallen in love with Maine, albeit in different decades and in different ways.
In addition to their friendship and support and their modeling of a life I at one time could only dream about, Lea and Bob affected Bill’s life and my life in two very specific ways.
It was Lea who told me the story of how one of her daughters had her wedding reception on a private island off Boothbay Harbor where a family ran a clambake. So when my agent and I had a call to go through possible pitches to publishers, and he said the word, “clambake,” I was off and running and never looked back.
When Bill started doing digital photography seriously, Bob, who was a photographer before he turned to painting, was incredibly encouraging to Bill, telling him he had an eye, critiquing his work, always generously. It was Bob who introduced Bill to the world of the visual arts. He told Bill about the place where photography competitions were posted, which is what led Bill to be a finalist in a competition and have his photograph exhibited at the Naples Art Association gallery.
Thank you, Lea and Bob. Without you our lives quite literally would not be the same.
The last time we saw Bob was in December. Bill and I had come to Boothbay for the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden’s holiday light show, Gardens Aglow. Afterward we met Lea and Bob at Ports of Italy, a favorite restaurant for all four of us. We had a delicious dinner and talked the night away. I would guess, from the timing, that it was one of Bob’s last nights out like that.
And that’s how I choose to remember them both, under a clear sky on a cold, starry night, saying goodnight in the parking lot. Saying good-bye.
Oh Barb- this was so lovely! We just never know who will influence our lives and our future selves. Thank you for this!
That is so true, Jacki.
So very precious to read these memories during our days of concern for Lea’s challenges and feeling so many moments a sadness that another friend is being called away (from our way of thinking), far too soon. ♥️
Yes, Calla. Far too soon.
Moved to tears. Friendship is such an overlooked gift.
You are right, Michele. Friendship gives us so much comfort and strength.
A heartwarming story of friendship. so glad you took the opportunity to share this now.
Thank you, Beth.
What a beautiful tribute, Barb. When I moved from places I loved after an extended period of time, I had the chance to hear people talk about me with love. I feel as if I’ve had my “eulogies”, and it’s so nice to feel the love from friends. We should do that more often. – Lesa Holstine
I agree, Lesa. We should take the time to express our feelings and appreciation more often. A good lesson.
Such a beautiful tribute to a lovely and talented person. Anna Marie Milliken
That Lea is, Anne Marie.
What a lovely piece, Barb. And I agree; eulogies should be shared with the living. Lea is an amazing woman.
She is amazing. So glad you appreciate it, (and her!).
Tears here too. Lovely words to a lovely woman from another lovely woman.
You’ve been with us from the beginning, Gram. It really is a shared loss.
This is perfect. Thanks for sharing it.
John in Hartland
So glad you liked it, John.
Thank you for sharing this. A wonderful story of friendship, how very lucky you found each other!
Wonderful and touching, Barb. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, Liz.
A beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you, Amy.
Starting my day with tears…what a beautiful tribute to your friend…and a reminder that we never know how we affect other lives. Lea will be missed by so many, including this reader.
That is so true. We never know what direction a moment spent to help or support–or a chance remark might take.
Okay, Barb — you have me crying, too. Thank you so much, for your and Bill’s friendship over the years. You both meant a lot to Bob and I — and still mean a lot to me. We should all be so lucky to have such friends. Peace, hope, health — and long lives to both of you!
Lovely tribute, Barb. I’ve never met Lea, or you, but I feel like you’ve both become friends through the Amazon forums and your books and this blog. My heart hurts to know i’m losing a friend. I can only imagine how painful this is for you. God bless you both.
Thank you so much, Dee. I feel the same way.
Barb, So much wisdom on your part to write the eulogy before Lea is taken from us. Lea has done such a wonderful job writing historical novels and mysteries against the backdrop of antique prints and the needle arts. That’s what drew me to her…it wasn’t just a Who Dunnit but every book taught me something. My life was the reverse, in a way. I grew up in Maine and then spent most of my adult life in NJ, a state I love to this day. She’s such a special lady who has contributed so much and has a special place in her heart for children. And she’s so kind and encouraging. What a hole in the world there will be with her passing. I’m dreading it. Her courage is amazing me.
Lea is amazing me, too, Mary Anne.
Weepy in Montana. You know a eulogy has done its job when it leaves you wishing you’d known the person in person (Bob) or better (Lea). Holding you both, Barb and Lea, in my heart.
Thank you, Leslie.
Your tribute is beautiful and meaningful. Lea is not a friend in a traditional sense. I know her only through FB, brief encounters at shows–and, of course, her books. Her “coming out” about her diagnosis touched me deeply. I sing with Solace, a hospice choir in Knox County. There is a similar group, Homeward Bound, in Lincoln County. There is also an active Death Cafe group that meets regularly in Damariscotta. In aging, compassionate Maine, openness about death and help on the journey abound. I am keeping Lea close.
Merrilee, that is lovely. Thank you for all you do.
Beautiful eulogy for a great writer who will be missed terribly.
Such a beautiful heartfelt story of wonderful friends.Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for reading.
I just saw this and join others in tears. Barb, you have written a beautiful tribute to a beautiful and talented person, inside and out – and brilliantly, so she can read it. I will miss you, too, Lea, and am so glad your books will live on.
Yes, we’ll have the books, which is some solace.
Yes, I’m crying too. Two lovely, talented women with big hearts. I’m glad you found each other and that I’ve been lucky enough to know you both.
We have been lucky in friendship, indeed.
How lucky you all were to find each other and share your lives. Tears here, Barb. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute.
Thank you for reading it, Shari.
Beautiful tribute, Barb. Lea did a thoughtful manuscript critique for me at CrimeBake last year, when I know she had other, much weightier things on her mind. A very special, generous woman.
Very special, indeed, Marian.
Love, love, love this! We never know what life will bring us or what we can bring to others’ lives. Thanks!
How wonderful. Lea is such an amazing author and I am sure she is a fantastic lady and friend as well.
Barb, so uplifting to also read all the outpouring of comments and love in response to your Lea tribute. But also want you to know, it was also an uplifting call to FRIENDSHIP and how, if it enriches our lives, we are so very lucky. And if we have not contacted a friend whom love lately … we should do it right now. You never know…. Thank you! Sandy
Excellent advice, Sandy.
How lovely a tribute to friendship and love.
Barbara, that was so touching. What a beautiful friendship you have all shared, I wish it could have been much longer for all of you. I think of Lea and my heart breaks. She is amazing woman.
Heartfelt, with tears, thank you 🙏🏻
I love this Barb. A fabulous tribute and memories you will have forever. Thank you for sharing. Nikki
You broke my heart all over again, Barb. I haven’t been lucky enough to meet Lea in person, but I feel I know her, at least a little bit, from the Amazon forum you and she both posted on and from this blog and her books. I feel incredibly blessed to know her at least that little bit. Praying as hard as I know how that somehow there will be a miracle. Barring that, I pray for an easy journey.
So lovely! Thank you for sharing such sweet memories!
I am so sorry to hear of Lea’s passing. At my 2d Crimebake Lea, not knowing me from Adam, invited me to have a drink with her. We talked about our kids, not agents, publishing or writing. Just mothering, its pain and rewards. I saw that her husband had passed. She documented it on Facebook and I didn’t avert my eyes. Instruction for the future. When I saw her at MWPA Crimewave in June I noticed her kerchief, the trumpeting of chemo. What a brave soul, presenting. Tough as nails. Fare the well Lea!
Barb, I feel privileged to have known Lea, however briefly, and lucky to count you and Bill as friends. The Maine Crime Writers are a powerful collection of inspiration; how much I have learned about living and dying from you and Lea.
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