Lucy Lustig wasn’t feeling well. But she was still up for a talk. She knew we didn’t have much time. She was dying.
Hospice had been called in. She spends most of her days in a hospital bed in the living room of the home her long time partner Kenny Buetner had built with his own hands. She was mourning her death in real time and preserving her life as best she could. I thought of our last interviews as a podcast. She thought of it as a kind of documentary, the stories of her life as told by her. A first person narrative in her own voice.
Lucy’s was the very first conversation I ever recorded with the fuzzy idea of a podcast in mind. The idea was to talk to real women and for a long-time journalist to learn to listen in a new way. I let her ramble. My audio levels were too hot. I made rookie mistakes. But I captured her voice – her authentic storytelling, the stories she thought were important to preserve. I’m forever grateful for that.
I only got two chances to speak with Lucy – six audio files totaling maybe a couple of hours. Much of it is unusable. Even then she had a hard time focusing. There were long silences. It was painful for her. The docs tried to “keep her comfortable,” but they could only do so much.
We talked about music (she sang a few bars of Joni Mitchell). We talked about food as an art form. We talked about the cast of characters at the apartments she managed on North Tryon in uptown Charlotte. We talked about her meeting Kenny and him teaching her to ride motorcycles.
At one point she cried out in pain, but not before warning me. We have edited out that bit. She was concerned for me. I was concerned for her.
I visited Lucy at Novant Presbyterian Medical Center. I visited her in the nursing home where she spent more and more time sleeping. She died on Thanksgiving day almost three years ago. It took me years to get the podcast up and running. I have included the story of my friendship with Lucy and her brave last days in my forthcoming memoir WHAT SHE SAID & WHAT I HEARD. I’m including her stories this week in our ManListening podcast.
I’ll never forget Lucy. She was creative and artistic and caring and giving and bold and brave. She bounced back from years of substance use disorder with the help of a huge community of friends. I am forever grateful to count myself as one of those friends.
Listen to Lucy Lustig’s stories in her own voice this Thursday @ManListening podcast.