Sunday, August 7, 2011

WE DIDN'T GET TO SAY GOODBYE BUT I GOT TO SAY HELLO

Recently a close friend of mine died. It was totally unexpected and myriad emotions have been going through all of us that knew her. More than just the five stages of grief. This is different for many of us for many reasons.

Debi was the first of our friends to pass. Despite a recent comment she made that she was 61 and had lived a full life, we wanted that life to be fuller, longer. She was one of those people who was there for anyone who needed her, always volunteering--generally the first in line--and giving her all. As a community services officer with the local police department for 29 years she touched so many lives. And for all she gave to anyone who needed one of her special gifts, she still had a strong sense of herself--who she was and what she needed to make herself happy. Towards the end we missed the signs that she was making a final decision. No, she didn't hurt herself. She wasn't that way -- as I said, she had a strong sense of self.

There have been debates for ages on whether a person wants the time to say goodbye or if a quick, sudden death is better. Debi, as was her nature, found the middle ground--sort of.

She was a cat person, devoted to her two kitties who lived into their 20's. When they died a few weeks apart from each other, she was devastated. Can people are usually open to adopting a new kitty--she didn't.

She was forced into retirement a little over a year ago. She wasn't ready to leave her job. It was her life, her way of giving, giving and giving. I was concerned because she made no plans. There were no back up options. That concerned me, but she passed it by.

Earlier this year she started going to her doctor who essentially blew her off saying it was depression. We were stunned a few short -- too short weeks ago -- that she had metastic pancreatic cancer. She was told -- and relayed to us -- she had 6-9 months. True to form she said she would make them the best of her life. We -- her friends who connected through a vast network -- began to plan for at least 6 months to share laughter, life and love with her. I think we were all so shocked that this woman who so totally embraced life could have something like this happen to her. I know I was, and am, still so angry at her doctor for not listening, not doing tests sooner, for not saving my friend. Many of us are angry for that.

Debi made plans the past few weeks and kept them--she had her nails and hair done, spent time with family and talked about her anticipation for chemo. The day before she was due to start it, she took a turn for the worse and died. This was Debi -- the end result would have been the same and so she chose to go out on a high note -- at least while she was relatively functional.

And there we were, thinking we had six months to share with her, and just like that she was gone. We didn't get to say goodbye.

But many of us had something more important than saying goodbye -- we had the chance of a lifetime -- we had the chance to say hello to a remarkable person. We had the chance to share a piece of the life of someone so incredible, so giving, so unique. I miss her so much, even though I haven't seen her in a few months, I miss her so much. She was always going to be there, there was always going to be time to laugh and talk and hug. There was always going to be time to say thank you for being my friend.

There wasn't time. I didn't get to say what a wonderful friend she was.

But Debi left a priceless legacy -- she left her friends. Friends like me who knew her. Friends who shared moments in a life well lived. We share memories of things we did with her. We now have each other to fill in the hole left by Debi's passing.

I didn't get to say goodbye -- but I was blessed to have had the chance to say hello to a wonderful, once in a lifetime friend.

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