Betsy was my mother’s best friend. She and Mum met in Cambridge when we first moved there in the early 1980s. We had just returned to the UK after four years in Canada, and she and her husband Frank were staying there on a sabbatical. She and Betsy met at a launderette and became fast friends. They remained close for the rest of their time in Cambridge together and then for years many after Betsy and Frank’s inevitable return to the United States. Mum and Dad occasionally visited them in Northern California and from time to time, Betsy and Frank returned to Cambridge for visits. Probably the last time Betsy visited Cambridge was to say goodbye to Mum. We knew she was dying and Betsy flew 6,000 miles to be with her and with us for Mum’s last days. After Mum died, all three of us siblings have stayed in touch with Betsy, in part because of her friendship with Mum, but also because we all love her so much too.
Betsy is one of the warmest, kindest, most generous people I know. At times, she gives so much of herself to other people that I often wonder if she has anything left for herself. Over the three decades that I’ve known her now, she has remembered my birthday and sent gifts; she flew down to Pasadena to celebrate my first big exhibition at Pacific Asia Museum with me, and a few years later, she and Frank attended our wedding. Although she came as my friend, I’m sure she also wanted to be there because Mum couldn’t be. Much of the time that I’ve known her, she has been caring for a family member or a friend. For a while it was her father, who was not the easiest of people, yet she was the most devoted daughter anyone could hope for, making sure that his last years, months and days were as comfortable as possible. Most recently, she has been caring for her best friend, and she now has to send her off into professional care – a move that I am certain is breaking her heart. There is very little I can do to help her through this painful time, but she has taught me a lot about loving and giving, and today I wanted to give her something that might help soften the blow to her heart just a little. I sent her a silk scarf that belonged to my Mum and then to me – two generations of women who have appreciated her exceptionally generous spirit and have loved her dearly for many, many years.