It’s Time to Say Goodbye

It’s Time to Say Goodbye

She walked into my home room at Shenandoah Jr. High and caught my attention right away. In a freshly ironed white blouse and gingham full skirt, Eileen Hill was the picture of perfection to my 14 year old idea of style. Hill and Howell – we were destined to spend those three years of junior high together – talking, writing notes, reading books and dreaming of our futures.

Eileen was sophisticated. She knew more about life than I did. She had everyday challenges to deal with that were beyond my small circle of experience at the time. Both her parents were deaf. She made all her own clothes and, compared to my haphazard stitches, everything she made was haute couture. She was well-read and knowledgable about boys – I, on the other hand, was such an airhead in junior high.

Diary Entry, January 7, 1959: After school, Eileen Hill and I dissected our first earthworm in Biology Class. Interesting.

I remember well one book she recommended. It was about Maasi warriors in Kenya. The title is lost now over the fifty-five years but in it was a detailed description of how the warriors demonstrated their victory over captured enemies by roasting their private parts and eating them. My mother happened to see the book on my bed and thumbing through it was horrified that I should read such a thing. She forbade me to have anything to do with Eileen Hill. It never stuck.

When I Fall in Love

I think Eileen attended a Presbyterian church when we first met and I was already deeply entrenched at Riverside Baptist in Miami. One week I invited her to sing in our youth choir and she was there from then on.

Over the years we double-dated together dozens of times. A long list of guys: John Calpini and Don Manning our first year in high school, Richard Perkins, Billy Ritter, Jimmy Wilson, Joe Scott ad infinitum. We believed in playing the field.

The most daring thing we ever did was wander off from camp in Florida City and find an open patch in the woods where we could sunbathe topless. I think Judi Nelson put us up to it. Otherwise, we were pretty prim and proper young ladies. The sunburn was atrocious and we never went down that path again.

Ultimately, I introduced her to Jimmy Foster, one of the darlings of our choir—a soloist, trumpet player, part of the elite quartet and so cute. That same year I began dating Bob Poulsen. The volumes of handwritten notes we passed in the hallways of Miami High would fill the Orange Bowl. We were so alive and passionate to explore all of life and love. The fall of 1961 she went off to Smith College and I to Florida State.

A year or two later we were in each other’s weddings, and as often happens, we eventually moved away from Miami. Though we kept in touch occasionally, our focus turned to building marriages and raising babies. Eileen and Jim moved to Atlanta and then Indiana; we were in Florida still. She started her own business, almost by accident, hand smocking little girls’ dresses for friends. It turned into a lucrative business in which both Jim and Eileen participated for many years.


My father and me, Dee Cail, Judi Nelson Avant, Eileen Hill Foster.

An Unexpected Journey

But four years ago the canvas of their lives changed colors. Eileen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and immediately began chemotherapy treatment. In the midst of her health crisis the news came that their son, Greg, had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Few of us prepare for news like this. It’s unimaginable. But the Fosters accepted it all as in God’s timing and surrendered to the road ahead with such grace it left the rest of us stunned.

In between treatments, Jim and Eileen packed the car and drove to Atlanta to be with Greg, Michelle, Kate Eileen and Garrett. After spending time together, during which God renewed broken relationships, they decided they were being led to move back to Georgia where they had spent the earlier part of their marriage. After settling into a new home there, they gave every moment possible to their son. Greg passed into the presence of Christ two years ago.

In the meantime, Eileen’s cancer surged back with a vengeance. A valiant warrior always, she fought with all her faith and might, always encouraging doctors, nurses, and other chemo patients along the way. On February 12, 2014, she also went home to Jesus and her son.


After moving back to the Atlanta area, Michelle gifted Eileen with an iPad. She’d never used email but now we were writing notes back and forth again – sharing hopes, dreams, fears, prayers. I found one of her old notes – a long discourse on love –  and mailed it to her. She loved getting it.


In September 2012 Bob and I made a trip to visit friends in Lawrenceville and drove over to see Eileen and Jim. She prepared a beautiful lunch for us and we laughed and cried together. When we said goodbye, my heart told me it would be the last time I saw her.

Jim & Eileen 2


Eileen, my kindred spirit and dear friend, with what joy I remember our halcyon  days together growing up. We each married the boy of our dreams and we made it last, you and I. Married over 50 years to those same two.

I will remember you always, your golden hair and sensibility. Your lust for adventure and a life with purpose. You have been a beacon of hope to many, and going before us you’ve carved a path through starlight that will lead us home.

Someday we’ll all be gone
But lullabyes go on and on…
They never die
That’s how you
And I
Will be

~ Goodnight My Angel, by Billy Joel



  1. Every time it try to express how much this touched my heart, words like heartfelt, poignant, moving or sensitive, all fall short. I know you opened a door and let me walk in on something too precious for words. Thank you. You two were indeed blessed to have each other. Loved the Billy Joel music video too. I got all choked up.

    • Awww. I love you Susie-Q. You are tender-hearted to the bone and I love that about you. It was fun to remember all Eileen and I shared over the years. I will miss her terribly.

  2. Donna Thompson

    Well, I certainly know Doris Cail and vaguely remember the other two either through you mentioning them over the years or maybe I really did meet them. ha! Who can know! But it brought back memories that brought fresh tears regarding one of those boys you dated. How I miss him and still have a hard time reconciling his homegoing. But I didn’t write to get into that – I just wanted to say what a beautiful tribute this was to Eileen. We are at that age where we ARE going to lose our loved ones, both family and friends. It’s the friends that are hard to lose because we expect parents and grandparents to die, but our friends – aren’t they immortal like us? ha! So yes, it not only brings our mortality into a more realistic light, but for me as I know it does for you, it makes us long for our heavenly home and there are days – oh yes, there are days – when I long for heaven so badly it just hurts inside. Thanks for sharing this, Cathee! I so wish I was closer to you and Bob. I could use a Bob hug at least once a week! ha! Love you both! Donna

    • Donna – I just told someone Saturday the story of your comment about all the “neat kids” who were coming back to FBC the new semester. One of your more memorable statements. I miss you, friend. We have shared so many good times. What I wrote today was about high school – college would have been another whole series of stories that are unforgettable. It all gets sweeter as the days go by, and one day soon…

  3. What a sweet memorial to your friend. Having friends that go so far back with us and who stay a part of our lives is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. There truly is no friend like an old friend. Our old friends know everything there is to know about us and choose to love us in spite of ourselves. I know you miss sharing life with Eileen. What a comfort to know we’ll spend eternity with her.

    Thanks for opening your heart to us, Cat!

    • We were at your house when we went to see her. Remember? I’m so glad I did. I laughed all day thinking of the crazy things we did in junior high. We were best buds for many years. Thanks so much for your great comments about friendship. It’s priceless!

  4. Walt and I were sitting out in the yard under the tree and enjoying the breeze and I read him your blog. We both were so deeply drawn into the special love that the two of you shared. We hope that at the end of our life that someone will say that we made a difference in their life as the two of you did for each other. Relationships like that don’t come along often these days as we just don’t make the time, so this was a great reminder that we don’t need to waste a minute of making memories with those we love. We pray that God will continue to bless your way with words to guide us all back to the things that matter.

    • Erma – your comments touched me deeply. I’ve thought of so many other things I could have said – how I copied her handwriting until it had been so long since I’d seen it, I forgot. And how she prepared entire spaghetti dinners for her boyfriend when I could only open a can of green beans and cook a hamburger patty (sans seasoning) in the over. I admired so much about her.

  5. Thanks for sharing about this love between friends. It was very touching to read about life at the end of Eileen’s life. We never know down which road God will direct us, but we can be certain he will be there to hold our hand. And he will place others in our life to guide, comfort, and encourage us.

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