This month… THIS month has been particularly difficult. Cancer wrestled another member of our tribe…out of our hands…kicking and screaming. She was a beautiful, empowered, intelligent, humorous and all around powerhouse of a friend of mine. I had taken the cancer journey with her over the last three years and in her second year, Paul was diagnosed with cancer as well. We bonded over many things in our time together as friends, but sharing our cancer stories, hers as a patient and mine as Pauls’ caregiver sealed our friendship forever. We shared the blessings and the challenges, the laughter and the sobs.
Nancy fought the best fight and lived the last years of her life with more purpose than anyone I have ever met. She was a warrior, a steadfast soldier fighting battle after battle kicking Cancer to the curb until the last and final days when she knew she had won many battles, but was about to lose the war.
She called me a couple of weeks before she died to tell me so. She was weak in voice, but strong in content and our conversation was one I will never, ever forget. Nancy was at peace with her mortality but it had been a long time coming. Weirdly, I believe the Coronavirus, in its attempt to ground us all, helped her to fit some puzzle pieces together that had not been quite fitting into place. It allowed her time with her family 24/7/. The puzzle finally come together in such a peaceful and profound way that Nancy could breathe her last breath knowing that her puzzle was finished and it was beautiful.
Our conversation was heart wrenching, to say the very least, and was a call I knew would come someday, in some way, but Nancy was more worried about me during the call. That’s the kind of person she was. She knew that I was suffering with the loss of Paul and another loss intertwined in our private cancer network, would come as a blow to me. It has. I knew this was going to be “it” for her, but not due to her weakened state, but more due to her sense of completion of a life well lived and a job fantastically done. She didn’t give up, leaned in, satisfied that her time was through.
I was fortunate enough to be able to make it to see her in Hospice care in her home just a few days before her last breath was drawn. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have written her a note which her husband read to her after I left, kissed her on the forehead, tell her I loved her and quietly to myself wish her a beautiful journey. When I hugged her husband and daughter, knowing what was coming for them in the next days, I wanted to hold them in my arms so tightly so they would not have to endure the pain that comes with losing someone you love so profoundly.
I held myself together tightly during the visit. I did not want my fear and sadness be the last gift I left to Nancy. I was warm, loving and present until I left the house and then I lost all of myself. The first person I wanted to talk to was Paul, to share this experience with him so he could comfort me in my hour of despair. I drove the quarter mile to the cemetery where we had buried some of his ashes on his birthday in June. I sat by his graveside and poured myself on him, with the heart wrenching sobs of a lost child. I searched for him, prayed for Nancy to God that her last hours would be beautiful and peaceful and that He would hold her in his arms.
In my conversation with Nancy, just a week earlier, she promised to meet up with Paul and watch out for me. I believe her. If anyone would find a way to be part of someone’s life even after death, Nancy would be the one to do it. I prayed to him to look for her because I knew she would certainly be coming soon.
Not five days after her death, myself, my children and grandchildren sprinkled the rest of Paul’s ashes in Cape Cod Bay near our house. The very next day, Nancy was cremated at 10:30 am. This profound sense of loss has me reeling all over again. Two of my favorite people are gone. Three years of my life was filled with cancer conversation, worry, research, pain for those I love had come to an end and I have no sense of purpose now. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the next part of my life.