Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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For Leslie ~ From Annie Nardone

April 21, 2023

Annie Nardone

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'”— C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Shortly after we met as Cultivators, joining The Cultivating Project in late 2019, Leslie and I started texting back and forth. I wanted to find out how she was feeling, but even more than that, I delighted in swopping odd bits of trivia with her. She sent me a video tour of her writing room and asked me to send her a video of mine. This happened during covid lockdown, so video conversations were a treasure! We exchanged favorite authors, children’s books, artists, and even art supplies, like the best colored pencils and paper. Her cheerful spirit was always a gift each time we talked.

She invited me up to go kayaking with her and her friend who owned the kayaking business. We figured out a date to meet and I would spend the night. As I drove up to her row house in Lancaster, I was greeted by Leslie, who was waving and laughing from the front porch. Pure joy!

She was still healing from her breast cancer surgery, but that didn’t slow her down. Leslie helped us carry the kayaks and paddles down the Susquehanna River boat ramp and we were soon paddling over the river together. I found the photos of that day, with the sunset over the river and the arched bridge. They now look to me like they were taken through gothic church windows and thinking back, that was a holy day.

We returned to her home and spent time looking through her scrapbooks and books, and chatting in the kitchen. Later that night, we ate the Bustard’s favorite takeout pizza on her well-loved green picnic table that she has written about in Cultivating.

We never know when will be the “last time.” When I moved to Florida, I told her all about kayaking with manatees and dolphins where I lived and promised to take her when she was feeling better. It was a dream that we liked to think about, holding onto hope that we would be kayaking together again.

And now, somehow I know that when I finally visit the kayaking park, she will be with me in spirit, and I’ll hear her sweet laugh and feel her joy just as if we were adventuring together.

This tribute by Annie Nardone is part of an “In Memoriam” series we are running this week for our dear friend Leslie Anne Bustard. 

The featured image, “Leslie’s Kayak and Bridge,” and the photos of Leslie and Annie together, are courtesy of Annie Nardone and used with her kind permission for Cultivating.


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  1. Julie Jablonski says:

    Just beautiful, Annie. I can feel the ache in your words, and no doubt those are church windows you were gazing through.

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