Real Stories

To Yoli…With Love

There are people in your life you may know for over 30 years who never become more than a passing acquaintance or part of a larger group of friends. Then there are those you meet for 30 minutes and you just know you’ll become the best of friends. Yoli was such a person to me. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I met her. She defies any external calendar for me. Our time together is measured in memories not minutes. Yoli was beautiful and kind and so damn classy. It’s tough to lose someone you love, but even tougher to lose someone you like so much. Yoli was there for me when I went through my divorce. She knew exactly what I was going through, having been there herself when her girls were teens. I always came away with sage advice heaped into a cup of serenity and a gallon of hope. She was one of my blank slates. Those few special women in my life I could tell anything to. The rare ones that never judge, love you unconditionally, and are totally amused (not horrified) by some of your antics. It leaves a gaping hole when one of them goes missing permanently. Luckily, I can fill it up a bit with memories.

There are the memories of the plays we went to, either just the two of us or in a group. Yoli was one of my, O she must see this play girls! We didn’t have a let’s talk on the phone everyday kind of relationship though. Days, or sometimes weeks would pass, unless a particular happenstance at an event we both attended occurred which required our immediate attention. And those chats were always laced with lots of laughter. When the I have to check in with Yoli light bulb would go off in my head, we would make a date to catch up with a lunch or a dinner. We started doing birthday outings a little while back, as our birthdays are four days apart. We laughed ourselves silly at the first one. We went to the Maddox Gallery. They had an exhibit of Stella McCartney’s clothing going on. To say the gallery was sparse in its art is an understatement. After the five minutes it took to view their paintings and one rack of Stella clothes, we decided we might as well find somewhere to eat. We came upon this adorable cottage adorned in ivy and a picket fence in Beverly Hills. Since we had no reservations, the maître d’ told us to have some free champagne lined up on a counter while he got a table ready for us. Where have we landed, we wondered. We sat down and amidst giggles we asked what the name of the joint was. Then we really laughed when he told us we were at the Ivy, just one of the most famous restaurants in town. The last of our birthday outings was in Burbank to see Jane Austen Unscripted, while being served high tea in their parking lot, as COVID was still a thing. When I suggested we really needed to take those darling engraved teaspoons with us, she just opened her purse. The last play that just the two of us saw was a Fringe festival solo play in June of 2022. We went to some sketchy neighborhood to see it. We stayed through the entire play, not daring to look at each other or we would burst out laughing, it was so bad. We even had a pole in front of us we had to look around to see the actress. Yoli wondered if we were going to make it safely back to the car. Only if we walk in the middle of the street, I replied. It’s a known fact, you can’t get mugged that way. What a trouper she was that day with the incredible heat and another finished round of chemo. The very last group play Yoli saw was, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Divorce. A play so hilarious and brilliant, I saw it nine times. The fact that she was able to answer yes to what would be the last you have to see this play call, amidst her struggles, brings me joy.

There are the memories of the house concerts. In January of 2018, I met Trysette, a wonderful singer/songwriter and I began toying with the idea of putting on music shows in my backyard. One time on the way to a play, I was telling Yoli how good Trysette was and how I wanted to introduce her to other people. The only problem was, she only played a regular piano, no keyboards. That was quite a stumbling block for me. Without hesitation, Yoli offered me her house complete with baby grand piano. We were having lots of fun in the planning stage when Yoli’s mom became ill. About a week before the show, things weren’t looking good for her mother and I asked if she wanted to cancel. In true Yolifashion, she adamantly refused. I got an early morning call on the day of the show from Yoli and I knew immediately her mom was gone. I wanted to cancel the show, and again in true Yoli fashion, she said absolutely not. I’ll bring my whole family. It will be good for them, she said. What an extraordinary soul she was! What an extraordinary night of music and spontaneous wake all rolled into one! I’ll never forget that night. I went on to do more shows at my house and she did quite a few at hers. Yoli always did the videotaping of my shows using her phone and then we’d crack up because she always had a bit of a struggle getting them out of her phone to me.

There are the memories of Yoli’s heroic fight against the cancer she got at the beginning of the 2020 lockdown. A rare one at that. For over three years I watched her fight for her life with everything she had, overcoming one major obstacle after another with grace and determination. One’s fierceness in fighting this dismal disease is in direct proportion to the love of the life one stands to lose. No one fought more fiercely than Yoli did. During her second stint at the hospital, she got caught up in the COVID chaos and had to spend over two weeks there. We would Facetime at night as visitors weren’t allowed back then. She would catch me up on the day’s medical events. At one point I became determined to get a unicorn to her through the COVID hospital firewall and that was another story we laughed over. Her surprise when the unicorn showed up was worth it. I got to kiss her head with all the medical stuff sticking out of it the night before her first brain surgery. I got to visit her at home or take her out to lunch when she was strong enough after another bout of chemo or radiation or surgery. Sometimes we drank Prosecco and sometimes we couldn’t. I told her all my crazy stories and teased her when her speech became hampered, saying that she was my favorite kind of audience. I always tried to bring her flowers of some type as I wanted her to actually enjoy them pre-mortem. At the last hospital visit, I was so annoyed I couldn’t find parking that I told the security guy that I was a florist delivery service so I could park out front. Nothing was going to keep me from seeing her.

There are the memories of her steadfast cheering on of my writing. When I began to write in earnest some years back, Yoli was always the first to call or comment or text to tell me how much she enjoyed it and how great she thought my writing was. This stayed true until she couldn’t anymore. At times, I would think, that piece was terrible, she must really like me. And so I wanted to honor her with a tribute in writing. I started this shortly after she passed away last August. However, after a few fits and starts, the light of my pen seemed to be extinguished. I came upon a passage from C.S. Lewis a little while ago. He posited that it isn’t just that his friend had died, it’s that the part of him that only his friend could bring out would never be brought out again. O how this resonated with me, as not only could I not bring myself to finish this piece in the past six months, but the pen, or rather keyboard, lay silent for all these months for any other piece as well. The me that I could only be with her surely seemed gone. I miss Yoli so much. I find myself forgetting she’s no longer among the living at times. And then the reality washes over me. The reality that we’ll never laugh, or gossip, or go to a play or a concert together again. But angel that she is now, I never doubted that she wouldn’t guide me back to this tribute to her.

I came across a poem last winter that I saved for the inevitable. I loved the story behind the poem. It was attributed to a Victorian poet named Christina Rosetti, who was very famous in her day, but not in history. It was a poem read at the funerals of friends back then. Later, it was discovered that Miss Rosetti never wrote the poem. History never did find out who actually did write it, so now the author has become anonymous. Since I spend a lot of time in Victorian England inside my head, I’ll just have to confess that I am anonymous for one last laugh with her. To Yoli….with love…

Miss Me, But Let Me Go

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little, but not for long

And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.

It’s all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
Laugh at all the things we used to do
Miss me, but let me go.

by Maddalena Beltrami

Maddalena is a former wife, Federal manager, PTA President, current mother and fledgling writer. Maddalena has had her work published in The Grit and Grace Project, Grand Dame Literary, Change Seven Literary, Sad Girls Club Literary magazine, InsideWink, Stage and Cinema, Bothering the Band and more. She was born in Italy and raised in New York and resides in Los Angeles with her two sons.


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