Another person in our orbit has passed away. Our next door neighbor has been living her final days at home after a brief, valiant battle with brain cancer. She died earlier today. While is was not at all unexpected, it is still sad. We have only lived here a few years, but she and her partner were friendly and nice and about perfect neighbors. I will miss her.
While I was sitting around navel-gazing and contemplating employment and hiring bias, our friend was saying his final goodbye to the woman he loves. I knew it was close – we have been checking in with him every day or so to ensure he has all he needs and to see if there is anything we could do to help. Out of town family and close friends have been in and out all month, but this week they have been on their own. Just between us, M and I have speculated that her final days and hours were closing in and they wished to spend them quietly together, letting go and saying goodbye. From conversations when she was first diagnosed, I knew this was what she wanted – to just pass quietly in peace, with her love holding her hand as she drew her last breath.
We are/were about the same age, she just a year younger. Since we have lived in our home she seemed to take good care of herself – our urban hikes on the weekend might exhaust me after a 5 miles and a couple of hours of walking and talking, yet she always seemed fresh as a daisy and ready to continue. A couple of times she brought her horse home and through the backyard to ride in the greenbelt, and she’d always call to let me come over and say hello. I know nothing about horses and am a little nervous about riding, more out of fear of hurting the horse than the horse taking action against me. He (the horse) was so sweet and so gentle, always looking for attention and any kind of treats I might have in hand for him.
We will be looking in on and feeding their cats while her partner is away for her burial and services, because that is what good neighbors do, at least in our book and especially if we like you.
When this phase of her life began I knew there must be something terribly wrong when she not only had to cancel our weekend walks but also her weekend rides. The headaches kept getting worse, but she did not want to see a doctor, because it was “just a headache.” Then her vision began to blur and face followed quickly by her balance, at which time she finally agreed to see a doctor. She handled the cancer diagnosis with dignity, then news of the limited options for treatment with strength and with grace. She told me that none of us knows what we are capable of until truly tested, and I had to agree with her.
I cannot recall precisely what J and I were working on when during the holidays, but she enjoyed the tales of my exercise adventures, particularly my lunge anxiety. Our last interactive conversation was on Christmas day and she told me I would overcome all my exercise challenges in time. I remember smiling, feeling like it was an auto response, not exactly believing her yet not wanting to debate the point with her either. There was a stroke a few days later, robbing this vibrant woman her means to effectively communicate. But the times I visited in the last month I felt her, still there, still listening.
How I wish she could have seen me yesterday and shared my joy over the Bulgarian split squats. She was a great cook and loved to bake, and I know she would have had a lot of great advice and tips on my great German chocolate cake baking this weekend.
Wherever her spirit rests right now, I am sure she sees, I am sure she knows. And I can still feel the warmth of her beautiful smile.
Rest in peace, dear friend. You are loved and will be greatly missed.