Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Unexpected goodbye

Here’s a post I never, ever expected to make: my dear friend Debi Echlin has died unexpectedly.

I first met Debi in 2000 or 2001. She was doing the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk, and I met with her to interview her for a Montclarion story. I went on a hike with her and her dog Molly—and soon enough we were hopelessly lost. I didn’t mind a bit: the conversation was wonderful, Debi was incredible, and it was a great excuse not to go back to the office. After finally plummaging through the woods, we found a trail that finally led us back to the car, rueful and laughing. We had a meeting of the minds that day and became fast friends.

Debi was the owner of Second Edition at the time, a new and used bookstore. Later, she bought out her two partners and changed the format of the store to stock only new books, changing the name to A Great Good Place for Books. The name apparently harks to a book that provides a model for “great good” meeting places for community—something Debi took seriously with her store. It wasn’t just a bookstore; it was a place for people to come together. It’s no surprise that the store launched and supports dozen of book clubs. 

When my Oakland Hills book came out, Debi staunchly supported me, giving the book prime placement in the store, on the front left corner of the table as you first enter. It was also on the cashier’s counter. What an amazing, supportive friend she was.

I confided in Debi things that many of my friends don’t know. As a mentoring, loving personality, with wisdom and depth from years of being on this planet as a good person, Debi encouraged my confidences and in turn shared with me some of her battles and hopes. I loved her and can’t believe she’s gone, so irreparably taken from us. And when I say us, I mean myself in my own selfish craving for my sweet, fiery-haired friend again, and us: Montclair, Oakland, the community, the booklovers. 

I wish I had the chance to take just one more hike with her. I had been thinking of calling her for just that purpose earlier on the day I got the news. And we had talked of going to Ireland in the new year together: a gift of her time I will never get to enjoy. How great to have one last ramble over the hills with her, with Molly jingling away in her dog collar. I miss you, Debi.


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