Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Have This Friend...

I want to tell you about a friend of mine.
She is a tough lady. One of those gracefully tough ladies that manages to be made of bedrock and still keep her mascara straight. She works full time, helps tend to her paraplegic son, volunteers for just about anything that needs to be done. She's a woman of faith. She teaches children's Bible classes, she brings food and comfort to people who are sick or just need it. She's the one who will send that card, make that phone call, give that hug. She owns a cabin in the foothills of the Cascades, and that's where you'll find her every weekend. In the summer she goes hiking, white water rafting. She invites great hordes of people out to share her little piece of paradise with her. In the winter you'll find her splitting wood, still hiking, and puttering along the river that runs through her cabin's back yard. She's the one with a smile and a kind word. She can find a true compliment to give anyone, not just an "aren't you sweet" but something real, something specific, something that means something to the recipient. She's got the biggest laugh. Some of her biggest laughs come at her own expense. She's just one of those people that you are both proud to know and want to be.

Did I mention that she's 71? She's more active at nearly twice my age than I am, and it shames me. She would be the last person to shame me for it, though. She would be one of the first to praise my efforts and cheer me on.

This past week, she walked into the doctor's office with troublesome indigestion and walked out with pancreatic cancer. I feel like I'm the one who has been hit in the guts. It is the beginning of the end for her.

I gave her a hug today and cried. I told her how sorry I was, that if there was anything I could do to please let me know. These are not adequate words for someone who means so much to me. These are not adequate words and only the paces we go through, the things we repeat when something so large, so painful, so menacing eats the vocabulary we use with each other. So I say them and hate myself for using the same words that everyone else does. For using words that don't cover half the distance of my grief.

But she's a gracious woman. She returned my hug and shared my tears, and then she gave me these words:
"I don't want you to cry over me. I'm scared, but I am at peace. I've spent this week looking over my life and I can honestly say that I don't have any regrets. There are a couple of things that I ask myself: Could I have done more? Probably. But I did the best I could at the time and I'm all right with that. I don't know what's going to happen to my body or when, but I feel good now. I'm alive now. I will be alive until I'm not, and that's OK. I'm so blessed to have had a chance to get to know you and your family. Don't cry, honey. I really feel at peace. We'll just see what happens next."

I don't have the words. I can't paint the swelling lump of cold that rises in me. I can't describe the way she melted that lump and it has leaked out my eyes. I don't have sufficient words. But I do have this friend. This strong and graceful friend. This friend who has shown me in so many ways how to live, and now she's going to show me how to die.


  1. Thank you, I love her words, "I will be alive until I'm not, and that's OK." A fine example of someone who isn't exactly a human being, but more aptly, a human doing.

  2. This is so sad and so beautiful at the same time. I have the same inadequate words for you... but will keep you and your friend in my prayers. She has the kind of strength we all can learn from.

  3. "This friend who has shown me in so many ways how to live, and now she's going to show me how to die."

    This was incredibly moving. My heart goes out to you.

    Pancreatic cancer is... well, you know, but...

    Talk about a life well-lived...
    Your friend is an inspiration to us all.

    I hope that I will feel some modicum of her sense of satisfaction should I be made aware of my demise beforehand, but somehow, I doubt many of us can make this claim when our time comes: "I've spent this week looking over my life and I can honestly say that I don't have any regrets. There are a couple of things that I ask myself: Could I have done more? Probably. But I did the best I could at the time and I'm all right with that." WOW! That's really a gift. Then again, it seems that she earned that serenity. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

    I hope, too, that she is surrounded now by all those who love her.
    The love is what matters.
    Thank you for sharing her story and yours.

    Much love, S.

  4. "I'm alive now." Those are the words that leaped out at me. I can latch onto those for a life's mantra. "I'm alive now…" and I think I'll bear that in mind, and act accordingly.

  5. SO much meat and honey here. Your words and hers as well, ring loud and true. I know what you mean about hating the rods you used, but it seems like she understood. We're all alive now, what a beautiful reminder. Many hugs and gobs of peace to you and your friend. xoxo

  6. What a beautiful attitude to have. I'd like to look back at 71 and say I have no regrets.

  7. Please tell your friend that you shared her words and that they have inspired many, for I myself will remember these truisms as a personal mantra.

    In the back of my mind, I fear for her son as I had a friend who is blind but who has never been willing to learn to be independent and who relies on her parents completely. I hope he will be ok.

    Sending virtual hugs your way.

  8. Your friend IS grace personified.

    "I've spent this week looking over my life and I can honestly say that I don't have any regrets."

    I'm going to remember this and, at the end of each week, use it as a reflection.

  9. Beautiful. Few of us are able to say the same as she, yet, for us there's still time to fix it if we can't say the same.
    Keeping you, as well as your friend, in mind and prayers.

  10. I read your post for the first time at about 4:15 this morning. I was too impressed to respond at that time. Didn't have the words. But this piece kept poking into my day. To be 71 and live the life she is living now leaves me in awe. I want to be that kind of person. Maybe we all do? I want to be that and I am not sure what the path to there is. Specifically, I want to be strong, kind, hardworking, open to others, open to change (including the ultimate change), someone who is both loved and loving. I like that your friend has no regrets. I like that she can say she did the best she could with what she knew to be the truth. Perhaps she would have done more or done something somewhat differently but nothing too crazy. I want to be able to say that. I don't have regrets, so far, about the life I have lived - only that I could always have been more - but I hope I still have time to be more. To live bigger.
    Thanks for posting this. Thanks for YOUR words. You are a remarkable writer. Do YOU have regrets?

  11. I, too, read this post earlier today and couldn't come up with the words I wanted to say at the time. Not sure I really do now, either.

    I don't even know either of you (IRL) and I felt like *I'd* been punched in the gut when I read this. What gift this woman is to those who know her. And what a gift you've shared in this post.

    "I'm alive now." Couldn't we all take a lesson from those three little words?

    Beautifully said, S. Hauntingly beautiful.

  12. What a beautiful tribute. What a gift she has given to those who know her.

  13. What a blessing to have an example like this in your life. And I'm sure you have been and will continue to be a blessing in hers as well.


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