In the last few days, two more people in my circle have passed. One was someone I barely knew but someone who meant a tremendous amount to others in my circle who did know her well. She worked at our local coffee shop. Thankfully, her final illness seemed to be brief, and she didn’t suffer long. The other was a girl who was two years older than my daughter would have been. She was a scrappy girl who had more than 250 surgeries in her life, the first when she was only 5 hours old. The last year of her life was very hard, but she never gave up.
A couple of years ago, I heard that my former best friend had died. We hadn’t spoken in years, not since my daughter died. This friend had always been a drain on me, but I kept talking to her. (Codependency was deep in me. I felt I should hang in there.) We didn’t live in the same state, so we didn’t see each other often, but we had worked together for several years. And then she ended up working with my cousin in Florida in a completely different industry. It was the oddest thing. She just stayed in my life. She became my son’s godmother.
She tried to mend fences with me a few years before her death. I had ignored two of her emails, but in her third one, she said she’d had two heart attacks and wasn’t doing well. She said that she wanted to talk to me, that she missed me. I wrote back and detailed for her just how she acted and how she made me feel during those worst days of my life. I told her that I was sorry she was ill but that no, I didn’t want to renew a friendship that had hurt me so much. She never wrote to me again. I assume she died of another heart attack, because she wouldn’t quit smoking, and she never quite got her anger under control. She was one of the angriest people I’ve ever known. She was two years older than I am now when she died.
I remember my mother talking about how hard it was to watch friends and acquaintances die all around her, while she went on living. Life changes when people leave. There is a cosmic reshuffling that happens. People come, people go, others move in, they move on. Does there come a point at which you no longer want to get to know people because it hurts too much to lose them?
I’m sad today. I’m not depressed, but I’m sad. My heart hurts.
Kate, the young woman who endured so much, never ever gave up. I met her at bingo night at the church I used to go to. She was a friend of many of my friends. She was lively and had a great smile! I had no idea when I met her that she’d been through so much, medically. She was a walking miracle.
We didn’t talk often, but we caught up with each other on Facebook frequently. We’d both gone to Hood College and studied thanatology. We had so many friends in common. At one time we talked about sharing my house, but I was going through a lot of medical crises of my own. I asked her who would care for us if we were both in the hospital? We laughed, but the next thing I knew, she was living with someone and caring for his kids. That didn’t last, and I know that not having the kids around was rough on her. She really cared about them.
But this last year started for her with a surgery, which started a cascade of complications. She was on TPN. She endured multiple bouts of sepsis. Still. She kept posting pictures of puppies and other positive things. And she told people to get the damned vaccine, because all of her healthcare providers were exhausted from caring for people too stupid to protect themselves and others. She worried that an ICU bed might not be available for her if she needed it because one of those QAnoners might be using it to try and survive a virus they didn’t believe in. She had to worry about things like that, because that was her life.
She never felt sorry for herself, though. She got really mad at me one time because I said I feared I would become disabled by some of my chronic illnesses. We never talked about it again, but she basically hung up on me that day. I understood her point of view, but my own battles have been pretty tough, and there are days on which I don’t feel like I can sit for 8 hours at a computer with eyes that don’t see well and a body that doesn’t like holding a position for too long (without cramping up or shooting pains down my arm on the cancer side). But I can understand how 250 surgeries can make you feel like the rest of the world shouldn’t complain. And I never complained to her again.
She and Karen and Viki are now in the arms of the angels. In Kate’s case, it’s probably more like a pile of Cocker Spaniels. I hope all her beloved babies ran across the meadow to her when she arrived. And I hope she feels whole and hale and well for the first time.
Fly high, traveler. Be well! Love and love and love, Jude
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