A bunch of us gathered at the Cove on Broad Avenue a couple weekends ago to celebrate the life of our recently departed friend, Judy Freeman. It was a good crowd. Judy lived a large life, one that touched people from all kinds of worlds.
Judy worked as a sales rep for Memphis magazine for many years, which is how I came to know her. In my publishing career, I've known lots of ad reps — a couple better than I'd care to admit. But Judy was unique. She was always on a spiritual quest of some sort: "rebirthing," yoga, meditation, ballet, travel to the world's holy places. When she sold an ad, she sold it from a place of honesty and with a genuine sense that she was helping her client. There was no pressure — or bullshit — from Judy. She believed in the power of truth.
Many years ago, Judy and a dear friend of hers joined my girlfriend and me for a spring weekend at a cabin I owned in the Ozarks. It rained on Saturday, but Sunday dawned clear, and we sat on the deck and opened a bottle of wine. The sun was warm, the sky was blue, and we felt very civilized.
Judy, ever the child of the 1960s, decided to smoke a joint. The rest of us didn't smoke, but we sipped our wine, and the conversation flowed. Suddenly, we heard the roar of an engine. My neighbor from down the road was coming to visit us — on his tractor. I'd met him several times, and he seemed a classic country redneck. As he pulled into the driveway, spewing exhaust and noise, I whispered sharply, "Ditch the pot, Judy! This guy will have us arrested if he sees it."
Judy beamed a beatific smile and exhaled. Tractor-man pulled up, took in the scene, and, in a Slingblade monotone, said, "How ya'll doin'?"
There was an awkward moment of silence, smoke wafting in the air. Then Judy grinned and said, "I'm just sitting here on this beautiful day with my lover and my friends, smoking a joint and drinking a glass of wine. Would you like to join us?" The rest of us froze, thinking we were surely destined for the county jail.
"Sounds good," he drawled. "I believe I will."
Judy Freeman. She believed the truth was always a good idea. She'll be missed.