37 days, 5 Monday’s & 5 Friday’s

I count because I can’t help it. I count because she was my best friend and she’ll never stop mattering to me. I count because numbers are something real that makes sense to me, unlike her absence, which doesn’t. She should be here with me on the island, but she isn’t. And all I can do is hold space for how long it’s been for me since a time when that was my reality.

I remember life with her like a dream I just woke up from- flashing details, some tremendous and metaphorical, others just inflections of scenes from every day living. I remember the sound of her laugh and the snarky jokes she always made. Sometimes it feels like a literal slap in the face- the variation is similar to how my heart being touched by her memory feels now, usually I try to just notice it and keep doing what I’m doing, but sometimes it surprises me and demands attention.

I can’t always write or share her writing because it still kills me inside in some way every time, no matter how much bigger my love than my ache. I don’t always want that visceral reality front and center to my own because I can’t function very well from my knees, which is where it brings me in every sense of the word without fail. I am trying to come to terms with vulnerability and I am making baby steps.  And I will share more of her writing at some point, hopefully soon.

I went to hang out with my parents and some friends yesterday and we ended up speaking openly about grief and loss over drinks on the beach- and I realized that that’s what my reality is now: my grief is fully integrated into my joy, and authentic life lies somewhere in between. It felt good to talk with others who have lost someone close, and to talk about memories shared. The grief in the world is exponential with each loss, and my heart is heavy thinking about all the other people out there also in their first stages of grief. I had one of the worst nightmares I’ve had last night that consisted of essentially waking up over and over again to be reminded that my closest friend had died tragically; reliving the hardest part of grieving for my head and heart on repeat.

I sent my still very alive friend a text first thing this morning, even before coffee. My best during the times when I feel helpless is to provide space for myself and other grieving hearts to say, “That is awful. That should never happen. I hear you. I’m so sorry. Life makes no fucking sense sometimes. Thank you for trusting me enough to share. I have no words that can help, but I’m here. This sucks and I hate it for you and I’m here.” And at times I need to hear those words, too.  K

I often feel insignificant -and in the grand scheme of things, I absolutely am- but that shouldn’t keep me from sharing what matters to me, just as none of us should ever hold back from doing the small things that help ourselves and others, whatever they may be– doing so is exactly how the world gets better. For me, it’s helping others, prioritize and to be kind and grateful to ourselves, our children and each other. Time is precious and finite. Hold your loved ones tight.  I

I wish you were here.
Love you most, M

One month since I held your hand

Just one month ago your body just couldn’t continue to fight against something that had become bigger than your earthly existence. One month ago today you earned every inch of your beautiful angel wings. You fought so hard to live a life that should have been rightfully yours to live and even though you knew that you would most likely NOT win the battle, you still continued to fight; believing with me that our faith and our love would let us win. I believed that if we had enough faith and love that God would see and know that and allow you to stay with us. How could he need you more than we needed you? He has a bazillion angels so why would he need you? You silently suffered with so much agony as the cancer ravaged your body and still even in your last days you told us that you “still wanted to fight…I’ll never give up…I’ll never stop fighting.” You didn’t give up but your body did. Your mind fought until the end…such a brave, young warrior. So strong and courageous and you never let your fear show. I almost – not almost – I wish you would have let your fears out but probably for you that was the only way that you could handle it? I don’t know but I do have regrets that I didn’t ‘push’, for lack of a better word, to get your feelings out in the open so that we knew more of what you were thinking and feeling instead of just touching on the subject whenever you were comfortable. Yes, there were a few times that we were able to talk about the cancer and the ‘what if’s’ but it had to be in your own time. Yes, you did say that you were scared of dying and I always felt so inadequate to try to help you. How could I help when I didn’t understand it myself? It’s something I will never understand. I don’t understand why God lets this kind of thing happen. I just don’t and I probably never will.

Today the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, it was so warm out…a sign that the whole world goes on without you, my love. It stinks and I’m sad and I’m angry that life goes on for everyone else. Yes, I know you are in no more pain and you are probably happy where you are but I’m sure God doesn’t have scary movies and wine. I’m sure life is a lot better where you are and the earthly things that you loved are probably not that important to you anymore. I haven’t experienced heaven so I have no comparison. I can only hope that you are happy.

Today I am trying not to let myself go into that deep hole that I seem to fall into a lot of times these days. Things just feel so quiet and empty without you here and I find that I lack motivation for anything.

I can barely write to you today. My eyes are so over flowing with tears that I can’t see the screen. It seems like three lifetimes have passed just within this past month and I find it hard to believe that it has only been a month. I cannot imagine living to be 60, 70, 80 or more without you here. If just one month seems like three lifetimes have passed by what will one year and then two feel like? Why can’t you just come back and be with us? Why? How can there be an old lady commune without you here to commune with? It doesn’t seem right. It’s all wrong.

Love you most, M

You will not be forgotten

I feel a little lost and uncertain as to what to write some days, yet find myself here anyway. I often feel empty some days. At the end, when we knew G’s death was inevitable, I promised I would write so that her memories would last a lifetime. I promised I would have her book published. I would keep her legacy alive.

I feel so sad that her daughter is so young. I hope with all my heart I can do her justice so that she will never forget what an awesome mother she had and how much she loved her.

And although there is a big crack in my heart that will always have G’s name etched on it, I am lucky to have faith that she is in a better place. I do believe that she’s in heaven, cancer-free and pain free.

My biggest fear as her best friend is that she will be forgotten. I know she worried that she left this world before she had enough time to really make an impact on others and leave this world a better place. But, it feels like everytime that fear makes a nest in my heart, there is someone that reminds me that she touched many hearts. Divine intervention or a message from heaven – I don’t know.

I think about how she always made sure she asked about the people taking care of her. Like she wanted to know about them. She genuinely cared about the people caring for her. She would make an effort to learn about the nurses and send them fruit baskets or cookies for taking such good care of her. She would learn about them so she could talk about things they wanted to talk about. Favorite Disney character? She’d find out about it and it would come up. A nurse who loves Vera Bradley- I would walk in one day and they’d be discussing the best tote or make up bag. That was g. Maybe that’s why she was always the favorite patient. And also her cardiologist’s favorite but we joked that that was for a different reason.

When she was so sick before Christmas her daughter seemed to be following right in her footsteps. I think it was then she saw the rawness of just how sick her mom was and rather than be fearful she tried to comfort her mom. Once when G was struggling with anxiety during a procedure and her daughter was with her, her daughter gently reminded her to breathe and repeated, “mom, look at me. Look at me.” It touched the nurse so much she asked me how her daughter was doing two months later when she was taking care of G again.

I know she was a tough lady, she was. But I remember these moments of her vulnerability and I try hard to hold back my tears.I miss her so much. She was my person. She knew me. Even in a text she could tell when something was off and she’d call me out. She would know when something was wrong no matter how hard I tried to cover it up.

Everywhere I look I see the essence of her. And for that reason I know she will never be forgotten. I see her in movies, in books, in music. I see her in her daughter. Needless to say, I cry a lot. At times tears of sorrow, other times tears of joy. Tears of love. I feel so lucky and so blessed to have had her in my life for the years I did.

Love you most, M

And just as you were taking your first steps

Friday again, my friend. I miss you every day, but I think Friday’s are the worst days for me. Possibly since we spent every Friday together. I know you really struggled after the move, but at least we had planes and when we couldn’t be together we had Skype. But the worst part was not being with you when you got sicker. I know you could call me, but you didn’t. I know it was out of fear. But it was me. And the two times you did actually call and I saw it was your number on my phone, of course I thought the worst.

The feelings of helplessness I had when I couldn’t get to you to help you the time you needed me probably hurt me as much as you. And I know that’s why you didn’t call unless it was an emergency. Even when I told you I wanted you to call me. You wouldn’t. Fear ruled your brain. Or maybe you felt like I didn’t mean what I said. Or I didn’t care. And I know that’s why you think your therapist left you. And maybe that’s why she did. But I told you this then, and I’ll say it again, because even though you can’t hear me now, I need to say it today. That was her damn job, G. Just like it was mine, as your best friend. Her job was to help you retrain your brain, not reiterate what you already learned as a child that was so fucked up. You should have been able to rely on people to be there for you. You shouldn’t have had to worry about being alone and afraid. You shouldn’t have felt ashamed to call and say, “I’m afraid please just talk to me for a minute.” And I’m so so so sorry you felt that way. It wasn’t fair. And it should have been. You were loved. So much.

You were hurt over and over again, by others, by the people who by nature of the very relationships you should have been able to trust, by people who asked you to trust them, by yourself. None of this was fair. I read your words now and I know how you blamed yourself for all of it, how you punished yourself. And just when you started to learn to walk again, you were fatally struck by a disease that also doesn’t play fair. The ultimate lesson in unfairness, my friend. You always joked using her words, but I’m still crying real tears. I know you did, too.

Sometimes I think I can almost hear her voice talking about the unfairness of your life. But I have to believe you have the final laugh. Because why walk when you can fly.

Thanks for all the daily pics…I’m so glad I have them now

TGIF G, love you most, M.

Sent when G first started walking post ankle surgery.

Still missing you every minute, my warrior friend

As we approach the month mark of G’s passing, I have to say that selfishly this is the most painful thing I have ever endured.
Everything has been such a blur – conversations, activities and quite frankly at this point, the days. The last days have been ones of mixed emotions. I don’t know if I should cry, if it is right to laugh, if I should be angry or if I should be at peace. In any given minute, I can probably feel all of those emotions. Sometimes consecutively, sometimes simultaneously. I know that the numbness has not worn off and the reality that G’s absence is for a lifetime is something that hasn’t hit me yet. And, quite frankly I am petrified for the time it does. I hurt now and I can only imagine how many more pieces my heart will break into when reality rears its ugly head.  This is what therapy is for, I suppose.

I feel like G was everyone’s friend. She had the kind of beautiful spirit that radiated and made you feel like you knew her. She reminded you of an old soul, an old friend, or one you wish you had. She was kind, sweet, strong, brave and loving. She was a true warrior princess  in every essence of the words. She was true at heart.  She honestly never met a stranger, or at least not for long.  It never ceased to amaze me how she’d quickly make friends with a bartender, a pilot, or the group of middle aged women standing next to us at a concert.  And it was not just causal conversation.  She would stay in touch with these people.  She had a knack for bringing people together.

Despite having the odds against her, she never gave up. She was very brave and she will always be my hero. She was a true gift to this world, and an inspiration to many. I am proud to be called her best friend. And, while G had found her own ways to get through a moment, an hour or a day, I have needed to do the same. For me, it’s the music. As the saying goes– when you are happy you enjoy the music, but when you are sad you understand the lyrics.

When people ask me how I am doing, I have to say that two words sum it up best. IT SUCKS. Cancer sucks and it changes you forever. Every day hundreds of patients walk apprehensively through the doors of a cancer clinic to begin their treatment. They slowly shuffle in and peer around at the staff, volunteers, and dozens of bald-headed people and silently whisper “God, please let me wake up from this nightmare.” I admit I’m tired of the horrors of cancer. And from the depths of my soul, I’m angry that we are grieving the loss of our G because the horrible beast called cancer. I know that at the end, she was so tired. But she was still so brave. She tried so hard to wake up, but when she finally knew she couldn’t, she accepted it. At least she said she did, and I hope she did. I want to believe that.

Cancer knows no boundaries; it strikes without reason, it strikes without justification. My best friend was your best friend before she was attacked by the beast. She worked, she dreamed, she lived. She was strong, resilient, and one of the bravest warriors the world has ever imagined. She lived.

I ask myself why some are dealt such shit hands in this life. Why there is so much unfairness at times heaped upon some people. And the only answer I can come up with is this: we are all being tested for our will, our fortitude, our sense of compassion and humility. We live in a society of “ME,”. We need to change that thought to help those truly in need, as the real heroes are the ones fighting for their lives. Trust me when I tell you it is a good feeling to feel the love of a world celebrating the life of someone else. It is a good feeling to know your friend inspired people from across the coasts. It is a good feeling to know your friend’s strength, courage, bravery and selflessness was admired by many. It feels good to be proud of a woman that even in her death can teach us all how to be a better person. There is no better honor in this world than to have had the privilege of being her best friend.

Minutes before G became an angel, she whispered to me, I’m done. She was so tired…and she knew it was her time to go. It was so hard to let her go. I know she was ready, but I wasn’t. After she passed, I laid beside her holding her and crying. It wasn’t fair. Why should someone as beautiful as her need to leave. But she fought an honerable battle and her body was tired and now she is at peace. And I have to believe that God broke our hearts on February 20, 2017 to prove to us he only takes the best. Only the good die young.

Please, today take a moment to laugh – then take two moments to love and appreciate those in your life. Each day is a blessing. And please continue to remember the angels we have lost and to pray and support the warriors who are here today and those who are close to our hearts. And, please say a special prayer for G, our princesss warrior, now a crowned angel in heaven.

I love you most G,
M

It’s been 22 days since you left us

We went through so much in the years we spent together, yet it didn’t feel like enough. I got to hear her…laughing, singing, living, breathing, crying, struggling and… dying. You all might imagine – and some of you know – that this was not an easy path…But, G walked, hobbled, and, at times, crawled hers. She labored through her illness with fortitude and strength…well loved. Beautiful and breathtaking. That is how I saw her. And how I wish she would have seen herself on many days.

And I wish I could talk to her now. And tell her that again. That even though life wasn’t fair for her so much of the time, she was loved. That she did not fail as a child. And she did not fail as a partner. She did not fail as a patient. G never let go of her connection to her former therapist. And she asked for her before she died. Not her mother, but the woman she felt closest to for so many years. Possibly to bring her some sense of comfort. Or possibly just to say a final goodbye. But her answer in those final days, was also “life wasn’t fair” as she received no reply from the woman who G possibly loved and trusted the most in a “therapisty/motherly” way. And although in life I would have said no, leave it alone, in those final days, I just wished for her to find peace and comfort in any way possible.

My grief remains a huge part of me. I continue to work to make friends with it – since it is here and not leaving – but it hurts. I can allow moments of distraction by keeping busy and staying focused. Other times, I can’t think of anything except my best friend and how much I miss her. I still torment myself at times with thoughts that maybe there was another treatment, or trial, we could have tried. Or we should have spent more time together, traveled more, done more, spoke more. I try to comfort myself knowing that she had grace for me, forgave me my mistakes and loved me anyway… but I hate those things were there to begin with. Guilt is yet another painful companion to grief.

This journey sucks. It remains raw. I plan to hide in my home tomorrow – look at pictures and read her words and remind myself that she was real. The joy was real.

breathe and keep going

G was very clear with me that no matter what happened to her, she wanted me to be there for her daughter. To be clear, her daughter and I have always been very close. She’s always been like a daughter to me so this discussion wasn’t even really a request on her part, in fact, I would have been offended had she not asked this of me. A is a wise, articulate, funny and smart young woman. She is caring, silly, cutting and compassionate…she is a force to be reckoned with and her debating skills are being honed as only a teenagers can be. And I am so proud of her.

As we cried together over the weekend I told her I was sad, and I couldn’t say it was okay, because it isn’t okay. We hugged and cried together and I am hopeful that she will at some point agree to grief counseling, but at this time she is not willing to go. As when her mama relapsed with cancer, she went to therapy twice then decided she did not want to talk to a “stranger” about her “problems”. As long as she continues to talk to me, I won’t push her.

She is a beautiful and kind young woman. Like the gene pool was kind to her with her curly ginger locks and her kind blue eyes. But her real beauty is in her strength and wisdom and intelligence, her compassion and passion, her endurance and resilience. She is so intelligent and wishes to be a pediatric oncologist. Of course this may change as she is only 15 years old. But at this point it is her focus and with focus, she can do anything. Channeling her pain into something positive is a good thing.

We had a good weekend together, and I’m happy I will be seeing her again Monday for a week. I want to honor G’s spirit by doing my very best.

I breathe and keep going. Even through loss.  I breathe and keep going,



You never know how weak you are til you are no longer able to do the things you used to do

I visited G over New Years  and I noticed there had been a shift in her, both emotionally and physically since the last time I had seen her.  My visit had been planned on my side but was a surprise for her.  And I am so glad I planned my trip. Although it was not planned in the circumstances in which they played out, I know that I was  meant to be with her during that time. I know she needed me.  And I needed her.   She had been quite ill, in treatment, and she had recently had surgery.  She was weak and unable to walk or get around on her own.  Surprising her was so special, and I’ll never forget the smile on her face- it was priceless.   She was so happy to see me.  It really made her so happy that I would do it all again just to see that smile.   I would do almost anything to see her smile again…

Although she was weak her humor was still intact.  We spent five wonderful days together.  Despite her compromised immune system, the fact she wasn’t able to walk or drive, and she was in a tremendous amount of pain, we managed to make more wonderful memories together.

I remember at one point she was trying to open an orange juice bottle and she didn’t have the strength to do it.  She was frustrated but not angry, she just joked and said, “you never know how weak you are until you no longer have the strength to do the things you used to do-put that on a t-shirt and print it.”  I know she probably felt worse about this than she let on, but she never lost her sense of humor.   Looking back it must have been hard to feel so weak and not be able to express just how sad that made her feel.  To actually have to ask someone for help to open a bottle of orange juice was probably a real low for her.

There were so many days after that I would ask her how she was doing and she’d say fine, or ok, and I knew she wasn’t being honest, but I also knew I couldn’t say anything or she’d get angry.  It was always a fine line with G.  After she was so fiercely burned in therapy she never really let anyone  close to her and if  you would try to hard she’d feel exposed and pull back.  To this day that saddens me more than anything because I feel like it should have been so much different for her. She died never allowing anyone to know her or love her the way she deserved and it makes me so sad.  She deserved better.  But anytime I would try to get to close I would get the “life isn’t fair” brush off, or our conversation would be turned into a joke.  I always thought we would have more time.  Time to convince her she was loveable.   Time to convince her that it wasn’t her job to be the perfect patient, or be the one to know how to draw the boundaries in a therapeutic relationship.  But she felt like she failed… as a daughter, as a wife, and as a patient.  And I am so so sad that she felt this up to the day she died.  And she didn’t even tell me so much of what she was feeling.  I found out after her death.  When I saw she reached out for the closure that she still never got.  Dammit!

It was very sad to watch her grow so weak.  I imagine it was even more sad for someone so strong to become so weak.  So when she joked around that she was to weak to open the orange juice, it was an effort to laugh to avoid crying.  Like so many times I would tell her it was ok to be weak.  But she didn’t believe me.

I am very lucky that I have a therapist to help me through this grieving process, just as she has helped me through so many other trying times in my life.  I’m so thankful for my therapist who has been here for me through divorce, my spouse’s alcoholism, child addiction, my own issues.  She has never failed me.  And I would not be able to get through my best friend’s death were it not for the support of my therapist.  I’m so thankful for her.   I only wish my sweet friend had known the kind of therapeutic relationship that I know…that it is healing and not just pain, that it can he helpful and not only hurtful.  She never knew that.  And I know from reading her last emails, and her draft posts, just how much pain she never shared.  And how she believed it was all her fault.   And that makes my heart ache in sadness.

I imagine she is strong in spirit now.  Or I hope.   But I would open her orange juice  every day to still have her here.

 

 

it’s been a long day without you, my friend

…and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.

My god I had no idea how hard this would be… I really didn’t… we talked about it, I know. We worked through the details because you know how I am. But I guess I didn’t realize it would ever be the reality. And now that it is reality, it is just so much harder than I even imagined when we sobbed over our thoughts and plans, and your final wishes. I mean I knew it would be hard, I did, but I just didn’t realize it would be this hard. And that I would be this broken hearted. I guess I just didn’t know because the reality is I never wanted it to be. Plan for the worst doesn’t mean you want to be there.

Are you at peace? I know you fought so hard, you did… I know you were so sad that you didn’t have the closure you felt you needed- I saw that, and I read that. I’m so so sorry. I wanted it to be different for you too, G, I did. And we both know that it just wasn’t. You said you accepted it, I hope you really did. I want that so much for you.

But today was a good day, here- it was hard, but good. I love your baby as you loved her. And I know your heart was broken that you were not going to be here for her as you wished you could- as you never had. I wish and hope you knew that was not your fault. I know you felt like you never were lovable – and it was your fault, but it wasn’t true. None of it was true- sweet G- and I know you left the world thinking you weren’t good enough because of your mother (host body) and because of therapy and you thought you failed everyone, but you didn’t. You didn’t fail.

I wish I wouldn’t have read your mail, but I did. And in a way I’m glad I did. I am also angry and sad that your needs weren’t met, and you didn’t get what you needed, and I know you never got over it.  Nor did you even get that final closure you so desperately needed.  I’m sorry.  I know that it cut you and depressed than you ever let anyone know. I wish you would have found healing here, in the physical form, and I am so so sad that never happened for you.

But I am glad I have had the time to spend with your baby girl this wek, as I promised, and I want you to know she is doing “ok” – she’s hurting, she’s sad, she’s a little angry, but she’s  your legacy. And I have her. And you did good, G. You did good.  I wish I could talk to you, wherever you are….but instead I write you letters here.  It’s so not the same thing.  But it’s all I have now.

Last night we went and got pedicures and talked about school…and boys. Her toes look so pretty for competition today. Which as amazing to watch. Not just her, but all of the teams. It was awesome. They got sixth place but they were robbed. I think you would agree. The irony of the show being called “Trapped In My Head” was not lost on me. I know that’s how you spent most of you life. I won’t let that happen to A.

Tomorrow we are going on a hike and to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Maybe the mall if there’s time. Then it will only be a week before I see her again. Your ginger baby.

It has been a long day, filled with tears of sorrow and joy… it’s been a long day without you, my friend, and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again…

Love you most,
M

Black & White 100%

I am here

Dear G,
I’m spending the weekend with your daughter. Well, our daughter now. I’m both excited and sad to watch her dance tomorrow. Excited because she’s worked so hard all season and sad because you’re not here to see her. She reminds me so much of you. Her smile, her laugh, her sense of humor. She is you. And it is an honor to be with her.

I remember spending hours sobbing together as we worked out the details of how my relationship with your baby would carry on in your absence. I know you hated asking for help. Almost as much as you hated the thought of not being around for your daughter’s life milestones. I promised to be here for your baby and I will never let you down. I think you knew you could count on me, even with your trust issues, I will not met you down on this. I love that kid as much as I loved you. So dance weekend is up…with spring break on deck.

We still got this.

I am here. I will always be here.

I love you and miss you so much,
M.