Monday, August 16, 2010

Make Your Dash Count

I don't often remember birthdays, but I can nearly always remember the day that someone was called home.  I guess it's because a birthday happens every year, but you can only die once.  My best friend died four years ago this month.

Had you told me four years ago, three years ago, or even two years ago that I would one day forget to mark the day of her homegoing, I'd never believe it.  But I've been so preoccupied pondering potential life that I did forget.  Looking at the calendar, I realize that I first thought that I might be pregnant on the anniversary of the day that she breathed her last breath.

* * *

She called me late one evening in 2004.  I was immediately on-guard because she never called me late at night.  I cut to the chase and asked what was wrong. 

"I have cancer, girl."

I was stunned.  Cancer.  Cancer?  Freaking cancer?!  How in the world does a young and healthy woman end up with cancer?  Hell, I lived like a friggin' rock star in comparison and rarely got so much as a cold.  But she got cancer.

V had a particularly aggressive breast cancer.  She rejected the first suggested course of treatment, which was mastectomy.  So she elected to have a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation therapy.  You know, she actually beat her cancer. . .until it returned with a vengeance a few months later. 

For reasons I'll never understand, she didn't want visitors.  I guess she didn't want pity or useless lamentations.  So I did the next best thing.  I sent her greeting cards and notes every few weeks and I called as often as I could without feeling like I was being a pest.

Her mother called me one afternoon while I was at work.  It went to voicemail, so I called the house.  V's sister answered and I asked what was going on with V.  Her sister said, "She's dying."

And she was.  I got the hospital information and went that evening after work.

Visiting her in the ICU, I was shocked at her appearance. I thought that she probably looked much the same as when she was just a young babe. She was tiny, bald headed, and curled up in the bed. She looked so sweet and peaceful.

By the time that this evil disease finished ravaging her, she had cancer in her breasts, lymph system, bones, and brain.  Toward the end, she could no longer even sign her name.  At the end, she was in a coma on life support. 

Her parents were given the task of making a heartbreaking decision.  It's a choice no parent wants to face.  They gave their precious gift back to God on August 11, 2006.

* * *

I remember calling her work voicemail a week after she passed away because I was aching to hear her voice.  I was heartbroken that they had already reassigned her phone line.  To this day I'd love to hear her say, "Have a blessed day," just one more time.

There were countless people at her funeral service.  I'd estimate about a thousand, but that's probably too high.  Easily a few hundred though.  She was a wonderful friend and I'd guess that I wasn't the only one who considered her their Bestie.

V was only 36 years old when she died.  Too damn young by any estimation.  She'd never been married.  She never bore children.  Oh, but she touched a lot of people in those 36 years.

She worked her buns off for eight years to get her degree while working full-time. She always remembered birthdays and special occasions and never made you feel bad that you forgot. She was a generous Auntie,  Godmother, and friend. She knew that downtime was important and she took countless vacations with friends and family members - I still have a picture of our SF trip on my fridge door. She was always so full of life and she always made you feel better just from being around her.  She was the kind of person who I want to be one day.

The date of your birth and the date of your death are often separated by a dash.  That dash is your life.  She made the most of her short time here on Earth.  She made her dash count.

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