She fought every battle with utmost grace and a dignity that I can only hope to aspire to. Every setback was met with optimism. Every victory, with joy. In the year and nine months since her diagnosis, she looked cancer in the eye and met it head on. It's a testament to her courageous spirit. Sure, at the beginning she wanted to bury her head in the sand and not face it, but once that initial terror/denial ended, she was all strength. I dont' know that I can adequately do her justice because truly she is the bravest person I ever knew. And I will miss her every single day. On the surface, if anyone saw us together they would wonder what these two women have in common. But it was what we had below the surface that really mattered. She was 12 years older than me, but it never made a difference. She had a completely different life than I do, but that didn't matter either. She saw a lot in me that I sometimes have trouble seeing. And I saw in her a beautiful soul with a glorious sense of humor. We clicked immediately and have been friends since around 1996.
In January, things were looking up. The cancer in her lung was all but gone and nothing more than scar tissue. Unfortunately it had spread and there was a spot on her liver. After several different courses of chemo for the liver cancer, that cough came back. The cough that was the beginning of everything. And I knew this was a bad sign. A very bad sign. But I tried hard not to let myself think it. I didn't want to. I knew it was getting down to the wire and that her doctor was running out of treatment options. That cough. It nagged at me.
Through it all she was helping plan her son's wedding and hired me to make candy boxes for the rehearsal dinner. Every time we needed to contact each other it had to be via text or email because once she started to talk the cough took over. And still I tried to remain in denial. I just didn't want to think the worst. I wanted to be optimistic even though the last time I did speak to her, she had told me she's made peace with everything. Strength. Grace. Dignity.
On March 7, her husband called me to let me know that J's treatment options have been exhausted. There was nothing more anyone could do and she was now under hospice care. Her son's rehearsal dinner was the next day, the wedding on March 10. Would she be able to go was my question. Yes, she was going to the wedding come hell or high water, but had opted out of the rehearsal so she could conserve her energy. Good plan. And she did go to the wedding and from the pictures I saw, she looked beautiful.
On March 14, I received a letter in the mail from her. A letter that in essence was a goodbye. Devastating and yet beautiful. Something I will cherish. And a part of which I will share with you....
You are and always will be someone who touched my life in so many positive ways. A little bit of you will always be in me. Much love forever, JAfter drying my tears, I texted her to thank her for the beautiful letter and tell her again that I love her and how brave she is. She replied:
Hold on to it and read it when you need a little J in your life. I love you so very much!I told her I would hold onto it forever, and I will. How do you say goodbye to someone so dear, so special, so a part of you? I don't know. But I will be traveling to Cincinnati this weekend for her Memorial service so I can try to do that. Oh how I wish I could be going there again for a visit, to hang out with her and her husband. To meet her new daughter in law. How I wish it were anything but the reason I am going there. Love you forever J.