Losing a Friend and Finding The Memories

Losing a dear friend like Pat Bland Woodfolk has brought forth a wave of bittersweet nostalgia, as I am reminded of the vibrant memories we shared over the course of 60 years. I had so many questions after having lived in Taiwan for two years as the only black family in our vicinity during our last year there. Our subsequent move to Virginia ushered me into a new phase of life when I entered high school at Peabody HS, an institution marked by segregation where my peers looked just like me. The music pulsated with the rhythm of my soul, and the clothes and dances spoke directly to every fiber of my being. Those two years were nothing short of extraordinary; every party ended with me at Pat’s house, for a slumber party, while we engaged in deep conversations until dawn. She possessed not only academic brilliance but also kindness and confidence that left an indelible mark on my understanding of what it truly meant to embrace one’s identity as a Black person. She played an integral role that went beyond companionship.  Prior to attending Peabody and meeting Pat, I often felt different amidst diverse educational settings—an outsider looking in. But those formidable years at Peabody, unveiled a newfound sense of belonging rooted deeply within my essence. The 60s brought sit ins demanding justice, riots, powerful demonstrations, Motown, and a black awakening among all of us…and answers to many of the questions I had before arriving at Peabody.

While a new assignment led us to Frankfurt Germany for my Junior and Senior year—I maintained precious connections with Pat and others who relentlessly sent me updates through magazines and records reflecting society’s evolution during this transformative decade.

The class of 65 gathered in somber silence, our presence a heartfelt tribute to honor you and your beloved family. As I glanced upon your grieving loved ones, I felt a mixture of profound sadness and a deep affection fill the Church. The tears they shed flowed not only from sorrow but also from the depths of immeasurable love and immense respect for the remarkable woman they lost – an extraordinary sister, a devoted mother, a cherished aunt, and an adored grandmother. Dear Friend, as I stood there surrounded by memories we shared together, my heart yearned for your warm laughter and comforting words. The day of your Mom’s funeral, I leaned into the car to hug you and you consoled me as I cried remembering how special both our Moms were. Amidst the sadness intertwined with gratitude, I want to express my eternal appreciation for all that you were in my life – an invaluable source of inspiration who added immeasurable value to every moment we walked this earth together. Those treasured memories etched within my soul shall remain steadfast until fate reunites us once again.

I am Rita…speaking to your Spirit