Sunday, May 20, 2012


Yesterday, in the wee hours of the morning, I lost my friend Surrey Blackburn. She had been battling cancer on and off for many, many years, and this go-round proved her last.

Surrey was an incredible force of nature and light for so many people. She was kind, polite and incredibly caring. If she was talking to you, you felt like the most important person in the room. She was also incredibly strong and determined. It was not wise to stand in Surrey's way.

Surrey waving the flag
(Photo by Rupert Cole)

I have so many incredible memories of Surrey. When I first came into Other Books, she made me feel welcome and appreciated. Just having her know who I was felt huge. There were the incredible Victorian picnics where she would organize egg races and badminton.

Surrey made them do this.
 That's her in the back with the megaphone dressed

There was our awesome travels together in England, where she showed me Bristol, the city she grew up in. When she was a little girl, Surrey survived the bombing in that city during WWII. She was able to die peacefully in bed decades later after a long and very full life. Her own personal 'screw you' to the Nazis. 

She also took me on a walking tour of London. We visited the Globe, the Tower and other big spots, but also wandered around finding amazing little things you've never heard of, like a prostitute's graveyard and a community garden started in a poor and industrial neighborhood by social reformers in the 19th century. We saw the last walls of the Marshalsea prison, and then she moved heaven and hell to be sure we would get to Gads Hill and see Dickens' house.

Gad's Hill 
There's a whole saga about getting here that involves us almost 
dying in a road rage incident on the M5. It was totally awesome. 

Yesterday I went to a gathering of family and friends at her daughter's house. It seemed like so many Surrey and Gregor parties, I kept waiting for her to walk through the door. It seemed, and still does, almost inconceivable to me that she is gone.

Yesterday was full of the initial shock of death. Making phone calls to friends, driving to see folks. Just trying to be in the company of others whom she had touched. For most of the day, despite my intermittent tears, I tried to be positive. I know that she did not suffer, and that she is not suffering now. I fully trust that an amazing spirit such as hers is now off on yet another incredible journey and adventure. I know that I am lucky that she touched my life along with so many others.

By the time I got home I just lost it and bawled myself to sleep. Screw being positive. I want my friend back.


  1. Amy,

    Thank you so much for sharing your memories of our dear friend.

    With love,

  2. Of course, Bob. And you were the one winning that egg race :-)

  3. I remember when I told Surrey I was planning a trip to England. She just started listing off places I should go. Sadly, I didn't think to write down all the places she was mentioning. I do remember one place in particular, because of my inner history nerd, a market in Leeds that has been in the same location since the Medieval Ages.

    I was interested in going before, but now with my trip in actual planning stages Leeds is now a must see.

  4. I'm so glad to hear your memories Amy, thank you! And thank you for letting me bawl and gabber on at you yesterday. It helped, a lot. I think in the end Surrey would want us all to grieve as we need.

  5. Thanks Laurie, it was really good to talk to you. Let me know as soon as you are back and we can get together and hugs in person :-)

  6. Amy, thank you for sharing your memories of Surrey. I had just found out today of her passing, and was shocked and saddened. I am Shanti and Rebecca's cousin, and although I didn't know Surrey as well as others, I have many fond memories of her from when I was a kid and we visited the family when they lived in Sausalito. In recent times I had gotten to see her photography work, and she had an eye for things that was very different than most. I love her work. I had also reconnected with her in recent months on Facebook, and was getting to know her all over again. Her passing, I can see has far reaches, and her life touched so many in a very wonderful and profound way.

  7. Thanks Dina. Surrey really did have a wide reach. I think right now we are all thinking about how we can take her influence and her legacy forward. Her reach will continue for a long time to come.