It’s been two weeks since I lost a dear friend to cancer, and I find that I am just now able to write about it. About her. For some reason, I find that losing her was more painful, more devastating, than losing my own father back in 2013. That probably sounds terrible, but I’m just being honest.
When Daddy died, he was 93 years old and in truth, I believe he was more than ready to take his leave of this earth. He was tired, plain and simple. In other words, Dad had lived a full and quite fortunate life. He had married, had children, retired from his career and enjoyed almost as many years of leisure as he did employment. He had lived his life and despite its beginning in the hardscrabble poverty of the Great Depression, he fared better than most.
My friend, whose name was Michelle by the way, was only in her late 40s when she died. She battled that most hated of all demons – cancer – for the last two-and-a-half years of that life. She had been sick for a year or two before her diagnosis. But cancer is like that, isn’t it? Stealthy, relentless, crafty.
Michelle had become a grandmother and was blessed to be able to know her sweet grandson until he was almost three years old. Shortly before her death, she learned that a baby girl is on the way, due this October. She will never meet her granddaughter and, just as sadly, her granddaughter will never meet her. Will her grandson even remember her? Oh, I hope so. She was extraordinary, and she adored him so.
The community in which she lived will remember her, that I do know. Michelle was a doer, a giver, and a helper. Interestingly enough, while she insisted on remaining “behind-the-scenes” in everything she accomplished, everyone knew her. I believe that’s quite a testimony to her character and her passion.
I had the honor of speaking at Michelle’s memorial service, as did my husband. We loved her very much. We respected her. We would have done anything for her, to make even one day a good one. There were so many things I wanted to say to her, about her, on that day. IN the weeks leading up to her death, our friend lived in a hospice care facility. She hated being there; fiercely independent, the mere idea of someone telling her that she was someplace she couldn’t leave galled her. She railed against what she believed to be her captivity. In reality, I believe she railed at the unfairness of the situation, at the finality of her last address. Her friends comforted her as much as possible. I myself held her on more than one occasion, while she sobbed uncontrollably. A writer, I was frustrated at my inability to come up with the words – the exact, perfect words – that would comfort her. All I could do was hold her, or hold her hand, or just sit with her. Many did those very things, day in and day out. As horrible as those places are, friends arrived day and night to be with Michelle in the hospice facility. That’s how much she was loved and respected.
A life lived, even one cut tragically short, is never wasted. Michelle used to tell me that I had taught her a lot, and that she aspired to be more like me. I never heard her say those words without something inside me rebelling, and without me telling her that it was she who taught me about living life well.
Oh, there’s so much more to say about my friend but again, I find myself fumbling for the words. I felt compelled to reach a point at which I could write about her, and I have. I did today, and I did several times over the duration of her illness. Some writings I shared with her, and some I didn’t. Still, none of my scribblings seemed appropriate, or sufficient, for her memorial service. Instead, I read something someone else wrote. It was a prayer, one stitched together using scripture. The prayer reminds us of how much we are loved, and of the hope that that love grants us. The prayer beckons us to “come home,” which is exactly what Michelle did. That same prayer comforted Michelle a time or two as she lay in the hospice bed. It comforted me and others as its words pierced the silence of the grim atmosphere of the room. It was the only thing I could think to read at the one event I can recall that celebrated Michelle, and Michelle alone.
Goodbye, my sweet friend. Rest well, and in peace. And wait for us.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was named Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with loving humor about the South. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she’s not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family and life in her beloved South. www.caroletownsend.com. Follow Carole on Facebook (Carole Townsend-Author), Twitter @caroletownsend, or Instagram @carole.w.riter.