Where does one even start after over a year? Well, I can say that 2016 was a good year when it started. In fact it wasn’t until Halloween that it really began to suck…..and I had no idea what was in store.
That night when ghosts and ghouls come out to play, I received a phone call on my way home from work. My best friend from high school was on the phone in a panic. She had left her mother earlier that day sitting on the couch after taking her to a doctor’s appointment. She was not able to get up. She called Jen for help. I told her to call the doctor that she had the cell phone number to and see what he said. She called back saying she was calling 911 and going to the ER. I told her after I fed the people showing to my house and spent a few minutes with Alice, I would be right there. It was then that I would learn so much in the next few days. I realized in that moment in the ER that Rosemary was not coming home. It felt like a slap….that nurse so easily giving her the IV with the morphine had just given up. Who the hell was she that she was giving up on Jen’s mom. This lady was more than that…..she put up with me as a teenager on those long Saturday nights. She gave me the name Spaz. She would make us the best snickerdoodle cookies ever! She treated me like another daughter. So, who the hell was this nurse to give up on her? My head was spinning. I took care of Jen the rest of the evening and into the early morning. I went back the next day and the next. It was that Wednesday when we were telling Rosemary goodbye, I heard her tell Jen, “I love you.” That made my heart feel better and I hoped Jen heard it. In the midst of all of this my dad had just come home from being gone for a month or more to see his family. I told him I was sorry I wasn’t around but by Thursday we got the news that Jen’s mom wasn’t going to make it through the weekend, as her organs were shutting down. It was Friday night. I told Jen I had to go to dinner with my family. I cried all the way home. I knew it wouldn’t be long. I knew the posture of that nurse as she stood over her. I was watching Rosemary’s sats and knew what was coming…….. I tried not to cry at dinner. We went to Red Lobster and I ordered the crab legs, a place I celebrated Easter with Jen and her mom in 1988 and where they taught me about crab legs and hot butter (still one of my favorites!). Afterwards, I went back to the hospital to be with Jen. I finally told her it was time to go and take care of mom’s dog, Petey. She did and of course as soon as Jen left, Rosemary’s sats started to drop quickly. I called Jen to hurry back. I had helped make the decision to increase the oxygen to include a face mask. I tried to warn Jen of how her mom looked and it was too much for her. She asked me to make phone calls and I did. I stood with her and her mom’s friend of 67 years, dear sweet Iris while she took her last breath. That nasty word, Cancer, took her. I don’t know what I expected in that moment. But, there was a strange sense of peace……there was no sound, no pain, no screaming,…..nothing. I knew what God’s plan was exactly in that moment. God was preparing me for losing my dad. I knew that if I could handle this and she was like a mom, I could handle my dad’s passing someday. I just would never have imagined that day……would be so soon.
It was 12:09 am….the phone rang. It’s never good when the phone rings that late. I saw it was Carroll. I didn’t want to believe it. I was hoping that she needed my help. Come get Lilly, can you come over, I need _________. No. It was her husband. I didn’t want to hear what he had to say. Damn it. I didn’t get to _________________________ (insert one million things I wanted to say or do with her). I wanted to turn back time so fast. I just needed…………………………………..
I’m not ready to lose my friend.
I’m angry. I’m disappointed in our healthcare system. It really disgusts me that a doctor would allow someone so young to walk through their door and not educate them. How could they just suggest and inject the next end-all-be-all medication without any regard for what it was doing to someone’s body. Why aren’t they teaching people about nutrition? Educate them on GMOs. How many more people need to get cancer before society wakes up. Other countries don’t allow GMOs, why is America? It’s poison, free radicals, toxic trash people put in their bodies. How can these doctors live with themselves? It makes me more disgusted in Western medicine than ever. Should have I felt bad I couldn’t support the brain cancer walk? I feel bad that I wasn’t there WITH Carroll but no I don’t feel bad that I wasn’t willing to support a cause that promoted death.
I wasn’t ready to not have my friend around. I want her back.
It was funny when I talked to her mom later that morning. I felt such an emptiness. I think I was upset that we didn’t have time to go through the pictures she wanted for the book for her daughter. However, her mom reminded me that I needed to help finish that book. I told her I would and that I had been working on it the previous week. I told her I was sad Carroll didn’t get to see what I had done. She said, “Don’t worry, she did. She’s smiling down looking at it.” That somehow gave me comfort. And, yes for that little girl, I want her to have those pictures in the album her mother bought for her.
I’ve cried a lot of tears the past couple of days for my friend. I know she wouldn’t want me to be sad. So, even as I sit here now typing, I’m trying not to cry. But, I am remembering the good stuff….and the most important thing of all Carroll taught me….”I love you.” because you never know when you won’t have the chance to say it again.
Carroll….I watched the sunset on my drive home tonight. The sky was cloudy and the sun sank low just peering below the clouds. As the sun dropped the sky became this beautiful ray of blue and red with the lining of the clouds lit like fire. I just hope you were back there watching me, as I thought of you.
So, last week I read on Facebook that my childhood friend Carroll was still fighting the brain cancer. It seems the tumors continue to grow. I’ve had many reactions to this. One, I am not ready to lose my friend. Second, I wish that she would do more to get healthy. I gave her the healthy chocolate, which I still encourage her to take. I also wish that she would start eating more organic. However, the other side realizes how expensive that can be, as I am trying to feed a family of four on organic and grass fed meat. Then driving to work one day after visiting with her, I slipped into a fog. I thought of all the things we did together as kids. I was grateful for getting to know her. I remember her telling me that when the family I was staying with, the Langfords, moved to Sweden that I could stay with them and her mom would watch me after school. And, Bitsy did. This family was so amazing. They did more than provide a place for me to stay and have a snack after school or maybe get a little help with homework. They taught me how to hug. I know this sounds weird but they would hug me every morning and before I left. Bitsy and Carroll give the best hugs. This coming from a child who was seriously tactile defensive made me tense and afraid. My family wasn’t a group of huggers, except Fat Aunt Mary. I remember one morning in the living room with the avocado green carpet below my feet that was scratchy to the touch if you were stuck sitting on it because both couches were full. It was this morning that Bitsy gave me a hug until I hugged back and I remember the tightness of the squeeze. At first it was taking my breath away and then I started to relax as the endorphins from the proprioceptive input. I finally relaxed and learned to hug back. There are many other fond memories I have of Carroll. One of them is spending the night with her and sitting on the porch watching the rain. I also loved summer mornings when dad would drop me off. I ran from the car to the porch so fast, hoping that the evil cat, Pepper, wouldn’t attack my legs, which happened frequently. Also, enough to send my nervous system into fight or flight….usually flight prevailed. But, once past the point of doom of the bushes next to the house, I would go inside and then find Carroll still sleeping downstairs in the room she shared with a very little brother, Hank. He was usually up, and I would curl up on his bed and snooze with Carroll. As we got older, we still kept in touch. I made sure to see the family when I would come home for a visit from wherever I was living. Before I moved, Carroll and I had a good bonding moment or two….. One was right before I moved, she and I went on a trip to New Mexico. We blew a few tires on the way but she still helped me with the apartment hunting. She and I also had a wonderful trip to Tsankowi for hiking. We stayed with her aunt Carroll and got to spend time with Popasida, her dad’s dad. I really enjoyed this time with her. Then for my birthday before I moved, she took good care of me the night of and the next day when we had been out having a rather fun time! She was my alibi since I left work early and couldn’t go home to face my parents. She made me a grilled cheese and soup. Carroll is still an amazing friend. Even in her position, I know if I needed anything she would do it for me. I hope she feels the same.