In 1985, I moved to Ottawa to start a new job. It was an exciting time, although I was often lonely since I didn’t know a soul when I arrived. After settling into my work and my new apartment, I started studying French in the evenings and during my lunch hour. It was great fun to practice out my skills on the people I worked with. Most of them were fluently bilingual and enjoyed my efforts. During my first spring in Ottawa, I attended a three-week immersion course in Jonquière, Québec. It was wonderful and I returned to Ottawa with a renewed desire to become bilingual.
One of the people who gave me much encouragement was my friend, Hélène. She was a legal translator and did much of the translation for the organisation I worked with. It was Hélène’s belief that I should learn how to express myself when I annoyed or angry as well as excited and happy. She taught me lots of wonderful French expressions that I still use to this day.
I am often reminded of Hélène because of the bulletin board I painted and decorated with letters, cards and pictures from friends over the years. Yesterday as I was writing about letter writing and pens, I thought of Hélène and of all of the encouraging notes she wrote me throughout our friendship. The photograph above is of one that has prominence on my board. It was written on 22 May 1987.
Little did I know then that Hélène would only be with me for a short time. She had a recurrence of breast cancer and died in 1988. Shortly before she died, I visited her for the last time and I have always carried with me the lovely bits of wisdom and advice she gave to me.I was glad for the opportunity to say a final goodbye. Sometimes I can feel her spirit looking out for me and often I smile remembering her zest for life and her mischievous grin. Good friends truly are priceless.