Friends are gifts we never know where we will find them, nor they us. Sometimes they are neighbors, sometimes chance meetings along the way– at the park, on committees, a fellow-supporter during a 5k, at work, walking our dogs, in the grocery store.

Each of us is a veritable trove of life… anecdotes, encounters, experience. Once that chord is struck when you just know this person will understand there you are with a bond, hopefully, for a long time if not for life.

Friends are more than simply allies or buffers or supporters. Friends help us find a completeness that, without them we are seeking for something in that friendship’s place. No matter how far away or how long since we have seen them they are always with us in some strange cosmic way. We remember things said, stories shared, situations experienced or resolved. So when we lose one it is deeply felt.

Oh we don’t lose the memories or the character they helped build in us. It isn’t as though we have to return the life they gave us when they are gone. There is simply no more to come.

I lost a friend.

She was my supervisor at the last library I was in charge of. But far more she was my mentor, and my friend. She had a dignified strength about her and the wackiest sense of humor imaginable for a nun, which she was. I last spoke to her mid-September, she was in hospital for a cancer which she did not share, only that she was concerned with a pneumonia that was developing. She at the time was at a rehab facility where she planned to overcome this blip, then resume her treatments.

She died 10 days ago.

So though she will always be a part of me for what we shared in this life I can no longer hear her voice except in my memory, can no longer “catch up”, can no longer hear her laugh.

I will miss her.

Saying goodbye

More often than not we do this after the leaving… it is rare that we know when every person we ever knew is moving away, or changing jobs, or –worst of all– passing away.

My friend died yesterday. A pastor from her church and his wife were visiting her and her husband and son and had just finished praying with her. Then she died. Just as if someone opened a window or a door to release a captive butterfly. She was there, then she wasn’t. Rather, what kept her body alive had gone.

So the last time I saw her was the last time I wrote about her, just before Christmas. Her cancer had spread. She could not walk. She was relegated to hospice care because there was nothing else that medicine could do. A few days ago she was put in respite care so her caregivers could rest.

And then it was time to go.

Hooray for her, we say, thrilled she is no longer bound by her pain, defined by her cancer, imprisoned by her failed body. Are we thrilled? Really? Here we still are, right? So though we will someday go the same as she, for now we are those left behind. We miss her. For her family it is as though a limb has been torn off. Sure, time will make up for that loss, in its way.

But she will always be gone and therefore, missed.

Triple Negative Reversal

My friend about whom I wrote several months ago with triple negative breast cancer… she started to respond to her chemo in late October, her oncologist said her tumors were shrinking. We rejoiced with her, as hopeful as she that one day we would again see her walk into our church giving God (and His guidance to good doctors and treatments and nursing) all glory.

Just before Christmas suddenly my friend could not walk. No motor ability in her legs. So she went to hospital in an ambulance. Another scan. More tumors, brain tumors. So the day after Christmas she underwent aggressive radiation treatments. Hope again. More prayers. Then just a week ago an email asking more prayer as they deliberated over seeking hospice.

Now, as at the beginning, requests for meals only this time it is not the beginning. It is waiting for the angel of the Lord, the angel of death, an angel of any kind to bring my friend her final comfort, the comfort only one who has gone through unimaginable pain in treatments, upheld astronomic hope of life restored, and felt cataclysmic defeat, resignation, that all her efforts, all the efforts of those who love her and her family and prayed and hoped and believed, were for nothing? NO. Through all this, though we may be losing someone of great value to us, He has been with her, with us through all of this, and will be with us still. Why didn’t He save her? Why didn’t the ghastly invasive and thoroughly unkind chemicals kill the bad cells? I don’t know. Nobody knows. The cancer was too aggressive, too insidious. The treatments did not start soon enough. A cell mutated, morphed into something evasive of the worst of the chemical poisons ravaging my dear friend’s body and grew despite them. And a million more answers.

A family will be without a wife, a mother, a grandmother. But her life was not for nothing. She lived it, she loved it and those she bore, or knew and loved, loved her . And her God, in Whom she has undying faith, loves her and will be with her as He has always been, every step of her coming Home.