When a Friend Dies

Apologies for my absence. Regular posts will resume next week.

The phone call came last Sunday. My sister, her voice broken, “Have you heard about Robert?” Not family, but same as. My throat constricts and my body fills with cold stones. Car accident.

Seascape photo by Holger Eckstein
Seascape, by Holger Eckstein

There was a memorial service in his hometown of Raleigh on Wednesday at 5. The church was full by 4. It’s a big church. The funeral was in New York, where he lived, on Monday. The Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue holds 1,200. There was standing room only. Robert Williamson. Golden boy, husband, father, brother, son, friend, hedge fund executive, air-guitarist, athlete–and really good at all of them. Really good. This outpouring of grief and love is testament not only to Robert but to his family and friends. This Was A Life.

Our families have been connected for four generations; and funnily enough, Robert’s the only boy my sister and I both dated—though not at the same time. He ended up marrying her best friend. They made a great couple.

A while ago I ran across an old photo of Robert and me taken the night he took me to the St. Mary’s spring dance, ca. 1976. Sadly out of reach at the moment, but it’s one of those photos you see and immediately bust out laughing (slightly different from burst). Clearly the blow dryer and I had not yet worked out the issue of cowlicks. Otherwise there is no explaining my coif, which cannot have been intentional. As for Robert, the immortal words of P.G. Wodehouse come to mind: “Please cut your hair. You look like a chrysanthemum.” Out of respect, I won’t mention the Carolina blue tuxedo.

Sky Over Ocean by Frances Schultz
A Carolina blue sky

Part of me wants to crash ahead, frantic to do everything never done, right every wrong, tie up every loose end in a bow–and part of me doesn’t want to get out of bed. What is the use of a senseless death, of a family’s broken hearts, of a thousand weeping friends? We cannot know. But get out of bed we must and forge ahead we must, and in doing so honor this full and meaningful life of Robert’s–and of our own.

Seascape photo courtesy Holger Eckstein Photography. Sky photo by me.


  1. Oh dear Frances. I am so, so, so sad to hear this devastating news. Please take care of your self and do whatever feels right. There is nothing harder in the world than the grief from the death of a loved one. I’m sending my love and prayers to you and your family.

  2. My Dear Friend, So beautifully said. I’ve been at Betty and CB’s all afternoon weeping and recalling so many, many stories of that lovingly crazy, fabulously interested in all of us, manic about life, all around good guy, as Marshall says “just some of us”. Heaven is now atuned to KISS. Get over it please before my arrival. We need to see more of each other…plans? me

  3. Every time you can get out of bed and forge ahead, it is a little Easter…
    Jesus wept at the grave of his friend…

  4. Frances, I got your kind note & did not want to intrude on your grief. Luke 12:48 ~ Where much is given, much is required ~ Robert answered the call. My heart is heavy for you, Duvall, Blanche & his family. He was a swell guy.

  5. Our hearts are broken too but our tears are mixed with wonderful zeals of laughter of such fun times at Necker and Smokey.
    We know those memories are on video somewhere……all our love to Caroline and Children.
    Caroline and Peter

  6. My heart aches for you and for his family. All I can say is -Bravo to a life well lived and those who loved him along the way!! The people that God lovingly puts in our path, truly are the “gist of it”. Bless you all!!

  7. What a beautiful eulogy this posting is Frances. Although I did not know R Williamson, this much I know is true….he was lucky to have known you! As when reading this posting I cried a bit…for the loss of a friend that you so poetically described.

  8. I can only think of how sorry I am for your precious loss.
    Time will heal, but the feelings and memories will live with you forever.

    Love and prayers,

  9. Dear Frances,
    I have been enjoying reading your website/blog. It is so well done. I am a classmate of yours from St. Mary’s days of 1976. Yes, it is so hard to loose a friend. I was there at the same dance at St. Mary’s with Robert, you, all our classmates and their dates. Those days were so special yet to loose any of our friends from our past is definitely hard and saddens our hearts. My love and prayers are with you, your family and your friends who knew Robert. We must take steps forward each day even in our losses. Peace be with you.

  10. Dear Frances,
    My hearts breaks to hear that you have lost someone so dear to you.
    Frances, you have cheered us all up with your writing about your beloved Bee Cottage. I could not wait to get House Beautiful just to read all about your home. My NC home has just been completed with a nod to Bee! It has caused quite a stir in Old Irving Park, and would make you smile.
    Your writing is truly a ministry to all of us who grieve. I lost my only child three years ago, Anne Pressly, a television news anchor in Little Rock, AR. Part of healing is letting your friends take care of you. Stay in the bed when you feel like it, in fact, don’t bother to make it up because it is easier to get back in on those days. Remember “I Love Lucy” and anything else that will lighten your broken heart. Chicken soup, tea and banana pudding will help comfort your soul. You cannot go wrong with this remedy! Nurture yourself with the beauty around you, and remember that Heaven is more beautiful than we can imagine. You will see Robert again one day and it will be glorious!
    We will hold you up as you begin to heal.
    Much love and a huge hug from North Carolina,
    Patti Cannady

  11. Dear Frances, You have honored his memory so beautifully in your thoughtful, tender and heartfelt post. Losing a friend is one if the most difficult passages in life. My heart goes out to you as you move through your grief remembering a life well lived by a man who was clearly well loved.

  12. beautifully shared and I have giggled over the blue tux which Joe donned a yellow brocade one and the hair style. wish you had shared photo.

    I loved what our minister, Jim Adams said about seeing Robert and his granddaddy, Tiger walking along the heavenly shore together. That visual helps get over the hurdle of going to the beach again.

    1. Anna Ball I swear I remember Joe and that yellow tuxedo… and I would have posted the photo of RW and me if I’d had it. I think it is in a box somewhere in Atlanta. Thanks so much for writing. Love, Frances

  13. My Dear Frances,

    My heart goes out to you, Duvall, your family and Robert’s family at this sad and difficult time. My prayers and heartfelt condolences to you all.

  14. Dearest Frances,Your beautiful words mean so very much to me and all our family…as do the responses. We were so blessed to have him 55 years and to have Caroline and his 3 wonderful children. What great memories and he captured so many of them on film. Thank you Frances. xxoobb

  15. Dear Frances,

    My heart breaks for your broken heart. May you be comforted by so many special memories and his legacy. Heaven has a new saint…St Robert of Raleigh. xxx

    1. To all of you, friends of mine, Robert, and Robert’s family, heartfelt thanks for your sympathies and your love. Frances

  16. Such horror out of the blue —. talking of blue. I am so sorry.
    Thank God for hope and faith and courage to continue.
    All love. Kate

  17. Oh Frances…
    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend, Robert. Your words have been settling in with me over the last few days. We are losing a dear friend right now – a wonderful, wonderful man who is now in the care of Hospice as he nears the end of his journey. I’m not ready to know the world without him in it. My daughter is not ready to lose a man who loves her almost as much as her own daddy does. What I know for sure…there are some people who are just special. Whether they leave abruptly or come to a coasting stop, it is unfathomable that they leave us at all. Sounds like Robert was just that kind of special. My love and prayers go out to you, his beloved family and his myriad of friends – broken hearts, still beating.
    With my love,

    1. Oh Weedie, and my heart goes out to your friend, his family and yours. Thank you for me and for all who loved him.

  18. Dear Frances…..Your post is heartbreaking yet comforting all in one….I knew Robert many years ago (and you as well) through Blanche. He was a wonderful man and I can’t even try to imagine how much he will be missed by so so many. Please give the whole family my love and especially dear Blanche. Sending love and prayers, Margie Pardoe Rooke

  19. Thank You Frances for remembering our Robert so fondly. We will always share the memories of his love and laughter. You, Duvall and Caroline are like sisters to me. I am blessed.

    1. My precious sister, you — and we — are blessed indeed to have known your darlin’ brother, and now to have one another.

  20. A long, long time ago, when going through particularly difficult loss, someone gave me the following quote, “Memories are like little lanterns that light the darkness of a loved one’s passing.” I am truly sorry for your loss and hope sweet memories bring some semblance of comfort to you and yours.

    1. Thank you, E.B. Rodriguez, for this beautiful sentiment and this lovely salve of words. I’m going to take you quotation to heart, as I am sure many will. Blessings to you. Frances

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