She made terrific split pea with ham soup and judged a restaurant by the quality of its French onion.  She also made awesome spanakopita.

She dyed her hair red, went to sleep with it wet and turned our bed into what looked like a crime scene.

She left gum in her pocket, ran her pants through the wash, and we scraped melted Bubblicious off the inside of the dryer for hours.

She thought that the towel animals that were left on the bed each day of our Alaskan cruise should be in a museum.

She loved to text tasteless jokes and funny/silly/gross photos to everyone in her address book.

She had a mouth like a trucker when circumstances warranted it but she almost always beat me at Words with Friends.

She wanted us to be the next Indigo Girls.

She was a fan of mocktails.

She taught me Shore culture and lingo so no one would mistake me for a benny.

She didn’t carry a purse and very rarely wore makeup but she rocked a dress just as well as a pair of cargo shorts.

She saved the life of one of her patients in the hospital hallway as I looked on in awe and she thought nothing of it.

She enjoyed respiratory therapy but wanted to go back to school to be a substance abuse counselor.

She loved her family and friends and always showed them rather than just told them.

She fell, sometimes quite hard, but she always got back up.

Swing Low

I’m very fortunate to have shared the last eight years, the first four as partners and the next four as friends, with Ginger Stevenson.  Ginger was one of the most courageous people who I’ve ever known.  None of us are perfect and that applied to Ginger, too.  But she had the uncanny ability to look at a seriously flawed individual and see the goodness within – even when there was very little of it to find.

Ginger knew how to have a great time – sometimes a bit too great.  I met her at a point in my life when fun was in very short supply.  When I walked Ginger to her car following our first date, which had been on her mom’s birthday, she didn’t leave immediately.  She told me later that she’d called her friend to tell her that she’d finally met someone special but she’d messed up the goodnight kiss.  Although she talked about that kiss for ages afterward (“I can’t believe you went out with me again …”), the truth was that I’d been so taken with her that I didn’t even remember it being the disaster that she described.

When I needed surgery unexpectedly, Ginger accompanied me and my parents, who don’t live in New Jersey, to the hospital.  She showed my folks how to get around town and took great care of them for days for me.  Her eyes smiling down on me were the last things that I saw before I was wheeled away.  I was scared but when she said that I would be fine, she loved me and she would be there when I awoke then I believed her – and I was frightened no more.

When she helped me to get dressed so I could go home after my hospital stay, I was too freaked out to look at the enormous scar that surgery left behind.  Ginger checked it out for me, smiled and assured me that it was a work of art.  She lied but I loved her for it.

When I faced a challenging circumstance, a friend suggested that I imagine that an historical or fictional hero was by my side.  I told her that I didn’t need to imagine – my hero was Ginger and I knew that she loved me fiercely and would protect me without fail.

Ginger Stevenson was 42 years old when she passed away this week.  She made an enormous difference in my life and in the lives of everyone who she touched.  Ginger was an extraordinary woman and I’m honored to have called her my friend.  I’m so grateful that we spent some time together, and laughed our asses off, just a week before she died.  I’d felt a sense of urgency about seeing her and I now understand why.

The world was a better place with Ginger in it.  She had an enormous heart, a contagious laugh, a persistent will and a gentle spirit.  Although I know that she’s at peace now, I can’t help but grieve – I miss Ginger already.  I will always be thankful for all that she taught me – about life, love, trust, friendship and hope.  But the greatest of these is love.