I lost a very good friend this week. She and I went to high school and college together and we’ve…we’d…been friends for over 40 years. I thought I’d use the blog this week to talk a little about her.
We called her “Chet” but her real name was Ann Maureen (“Nancy”) … I’m not sure why we called her “Chet”; I don’t remember the story anymore but I think it had something to do with her love for cheddar cheese…but maybe I made that up.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, fought that battle and appeared to have won…When I saw her this past Christmas at a party while I was back east she was saying that she had some pain in her hips. At our age, something always hurts somewhere and the consensus among we 60-somethings, including Chet, was that perhaps it was time for a hip replacement. She was a nurse who had practiced and was now teaching courses on psychiatric nursing, so who would doubt her take on her own ailment? Turned out that the cancer was back and it was in her bones.
It seemed, at least to me, that almost as soon as this was discovered the pain became so severe that she needed to be hospitalized. When we (Delia and I) visited her in June of this year, she was in rehab, having had a steel rod put in her leg to support the limb most affected. She was supposed to come to our high school reunion which was scheduled just two days after we saw her but obviously that wasn’t happening. We brought lunch and spent the afternoon with her. Some other friends from the nursing school where she taught and fellow college alumnae dropped in to visit her while we were there. She was up for the fight and was very positive. She was insistent on doing things for herself and was going to physical therapy for several hours each day. She wanted to be able to get home again, but couldn’t do that until she could climb stairs. She had trips scheduled and that day there was talk of an opportunity to teach nursing in Saudi Arabia and she loved the idea. She never seemed to doubt that she would be able to do everything she’d planned; it almost seemed as if the return of the cancer was only a bump in the road for her, such was her attitude.
Right after our visit and less than two weeks ago, the cancer spread to her liver and she had to be re-hospitalized from the rehab. I was already back in California but she was never far from my thoughts and always in my prayers. We have a very close group of friends and the folks who were on the east coast (which is really pretty much everyone but me) were faithful visitors. At the very end of her life they had to move her to a bigger, more private room because there were so many people there with her. She was the second of eleven children and although she never married, she’d adopted a little boy (who is now in his late 20′s) whom she fell in love with while working in Grenada as a young nurse. She was a great mother. She was also lucky enough to still have her parents and she and her siblings referred to them as “The Precious Cargo”…it was a sort of code for who was picking them up and taking them to one or another family event.
I saw her less than a month ago and she passed away this morning. I’m glad she’s not suffering although no one ever heard her complain.
These are some of the things I remember about her and I wanted to share:
Her laugh…she had this wonderful almost mischievous way of laughing. It would start out as a sort of “tee-hee-hee” and her face would just glow and then she’d start to really let go and you just couldn’t not join in, no matter how bad you felt. It was truly infectious.
Her smile…it lit up a room…and she smiled almost all the time.
Her wispy voice…she almost always was sotto voce…unlike me, who is loud whether I want to be or not. Sometimes you had to lean in to get what she was saying…and it was always worth straining to hear what she was sharing with you.
Her softness…whenever I hugged her it always felt like I was hugging a teddy bear. She was all fluff…but still no nonsense.
Her love of travel…she went many places in the world but not everywhere she wanted to go…now she can go where ever she wants, when ever she wants.
Her caring…no matter what was going on in her life, she always wanted to know what was going on in yours…and if she could help.
Her eyes…blue…they were always sparkly and bright…if they truly are the “windows of the soul” then there’s no question where my friend is now.
I am told by one of our friends that the last two or three days even though she was heavily medicated to control the pain she would sometimes sit up and appear angry and agitated. I like thinking that that was the fight in her. She wasn’t ready to give up and give in…but God had other plans for her.
Rest in peace, Chetta. You have touched so many and you will never, ever be forgotten. There are holes in a lot of hearts today…but knowing you, you will find some way for us to fill those holes in…and you are truly a “Forever Friend.”