Category Archives: transition

What to Wear on Christmas Eve

sue's sweater

…and there it was, hanging right in front of me.

Once again it is Christmas Eve. I have been invited this evening to a friend’s home for tamales before going to the Candlelight Service. I have known this friend for about six years. I think this is the fourth year of invitations. I have been trying all day to figure out what I want to wear. It makes little difference at our church. There will be many in jeans and several in new outfits with every style in between. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like going to this place. I have never felt any sense of pretension. It really isn’t a matter of what one wears.

I have not bought any new clothes for Christmas in more years than I can count. Actually after twenty years of being unchurched, it has only been eight years that I have attempted to attend. My memory of Christmas Eves does not extend much beyond that.

I have a black long sleeve tee that is decorated with an embroidered cardinal and sequined white poinsettia  flowers. The cardinal is the state bird of Illinois, my home state, so it is a little connection with home, even though I haven’t lived there in thirty five years. The cardinal is a beautiful symbol for Christmas and winter I think.

“The cardinal makes a fantastic animal totem. It reminds us to hold ourselves with pride – not ego pride. Rather, the cardinal asks us to stand a little taller, be a bit more regal, step into our natural confidence as if we were born to lead with grace and nobility”. I tend to hold back in crowds. I thought perhaps if I wear the cardinal I can be a little more joyous.

“As we observe the cardinal – particularly against the backdrop of the stark winter months, we are reminded that even when things appear bleak or isolated, there is always the presence of beauty, hope, and love”. The tee was a gift from my cousin’s family. She transitioned two years ago. The top still had its tags on. I had been with her when she bought it. The cardinal was her favorite totem. I wanted to feel close to her tonight.

I mentally went through other things in my closet. It’s not supposed to get really colder until tomorrow when it might snow. I don’t think it will, however. I think any snow will stop about forty five miles north of us around Denton.

I washed a couple of loads of clothes and hung them on my rack in the laundry room. And there was my answer hanging right in front of me. The very last time I saw my cousin she was wearing a new sweater. When we hugged, I was amazed by the softness of the weave. It felt so like her. Her husband asked me to take whatever I wanted when I left because by that time it was a matter of weeks. I couldn’t get myself to take anything without feeling very uncomfortable. I kind of felt I would be in the deathbed scene of Scrooge when the chambermaids were stealing the curtains before he was even dead.  I did ask him to mail me a couple of things when he was able to get around to it. That sweater was one of the few things I felt I truly wanted.

So tonight I am wearing that sweater. It will be warm enough to wear without a coat as opposed to the thinner tee. It will be soft and cuddly and I will be sharing  the service with Sue once again feeling her loving arms wrapped around me. The number of people I share this holiday with has almost entirely dwindled away but the spirit of my gentle, talented cousin will be with me to the end…at least until the sweater and the tee become too tattered to wear. Merry Christmas, y’all. Namaste. Attic Annie

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I Do Not Handle Change

I do not handle change well. I eventually get used to it and adapt to it but that does not mean I react to it well at all.

I do a poor job of analyzing why I prefer to be “set in my ways” even if my “ways” are not serving me well at all. My early childhood, for example, was one of constant change. My mother’s sister lived right next door to us. As an infant, my aunt took me in while my mother had surgery and recovered. Those days I should have been given a chance to bond with my mother were not afforded to me. About the time that I became accustomed to living with my aunt (I have no idea how long) my mother recovered enough to take me home again. This lasted from what I understand about  eighteen months, give or take, when it was discovered that her cancer had spread to her bones. I became too much to handle so back I went to my aunt’s home where I remained until my mother died two months before my fourth birthday.

My father brought me home and there were a series of temporary housekeepers until his sister came to live with us when I was five. She was in the home for less than a year when she also had an operation and spent an extended amount of time at another sister’s home during her recovery. About the same time a full time housekeeper/child sitter was found who arrived around eight in the morning and left around seven at night. She lasted for about ten years so at least she was a constant but she had the warmth of a robot. She was just there.

When I was six and in first grade, another of my mother’s sisters had a stroke and died. She had tried to get my father to allow her to adopt me. I’m thankful she didn’t. I saw her every morning at school that first year when she combed my hair and tied my bows. These are things the housekeeper didn’t seem to think were necessary to do for me. Then my aunt was gone.

There were several other significant people in my life along the way who just disappeared including several male friends, a fiance, and a husband. Add to that the deaths of aunts and uncles and the divorce of the aunt and uncle who lived next door. In college there were three different schools and a change in majors before I finally graduated, along with the death of my father when I was twenty one.

Details of that part of my life are not necessary to share at this point other than to point out there was a pattern of losses to my life. My son is still a part of my life but being separated by half the world does not make the relationship an easy one to maintain. If I didn’t try to stay a part of his life, it would be easy for that relationship to end as well.

That being said, there is another separation occurring in my life. Almost seven years ago I found a church home unlike any other I had found. There were many opportunities to join classes and groups and really get to know the other members. There were social opportunities. It was a place where I felt I belonged. I echoed the same thoughts of many others.

Other churches i attended were a show up on Sunday morning type of congregation. If I was lucky, I learned the name of two or three other people who went there. That was not the case with this one.To repeat,  I felt like I was home. There was a warmth and acceptance that was lacking in my life that was being filled after too many years to count.

Since I am not a political type person, I was unaware that a rift was developing. There was major dissension occurring. A large percentage of the congregation was unhappy. The most visible ones were in the choir. Today was the last Christmas concert. Those who had not already left had stuck it out to perform. It was the final performance for many of them but no one is talking about who is remaining and who is moving on. I asked one member and she said, “I guess we’ll find out on the eighteenth to see who shows up to sing.” She, like all the others, is not committing. The choir director resigned as of this last performance and many are going with her. No one is talking about if the pianist is leaving as well or not. A few months ago the board resigned en masse and a new board was elected. It is not a pleasant situation.

I tend to draw into my shell when I am faced with a loss. I have been invited to go with those that are forming a new fellowship. I would feel invited if I did, but it seems about half of those I know are remaining and are trying to rebuild. I freeze in situations like this. In ways i want to just get things over with and see how many are still around after January 1 and how many are gone. In other ways, I don’t want to open my eyes and face the reality.

The concert today was outstanding. I am praying that other voices will be found to rebuild the choir. I loved to sing as a child but years of strep throats and allergies have long ago left me with a range of maybe five notes and even those are scratchy. I have to remain in the pews. I am just hoping there will be enough of us remaining to rebuild. I  understand that change occurs and growth occurs and death occurs. I just wish I didn’t have to be a part of it. Namaste. Attic Annie

 

 

 

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Pregnancy and Cancer…Impossible choices my mother made

I can only imagine the thoughts my mother had while she was pregnant with me. My family was very close mouthed about her even with me, and I was only able to glean bits and pieces of history about her or her life. We are talking about the late 40s when, if you talked at all about cancer it was in a whisper “Shhhh don’t tell anyone, she has cancer!”

From the way the story goes, she, for whatever reason after my sister was born, was told she would probably never have any more children. My sister was an only child from 1940 to 1945. At that time my mother realized that once again she was pregnant. I was on the way. She was 39. Two months after my birth, she was 40.

There was a problem. Somewhere along the line, she discovered a lump in her breast. She was pregnant. She had a lump. This was 1946. According to today’s rates, a woman in her 30’s has a 1 in 229 chance of developing breast cancer during the next ten years. Have the rates increased in sixty years? That’s a 0.4% chance if my figures are right. It happened to her.

There was very little she could do.  Maybe she could have a  radical mastectomy using ether as an anesthetic. I have been unable to find information on the effects of ether on a pregnant woman or her baby, but the effects on any patient were sometimes not good either. I don’t know what the medical establishment would have done for her then. Would they have refused until I was delivered? Would they have taken the chance?  Could she have had an abortion to save her own life? I don’t know. Abortion was illegal. I don’t know if there were exceptions to the law in 1946 or not.

I wish there were a way to go back in time to be there when she was going through all this. There isn’t.

She delivered me and had her operation. From what I understand, I was kept by my mother’s sister next door while she recovered. Some time during that first year I returned to my mother’s care. She was well enough to ride in the car with me, my sister, my cousin, two aunts, and my father all the way to California and back when my aunt returned home after nursing her through the operation and recovery.

Some time before I was two,  I have been told that she bent over to pick me up and had a horrific pain in her back. The cancer had spread to her bones. She lived another two years or so, dying in April two months before my fourth birthday. She was forty two.

To discover that one is pregnant is, in general, a very happy experience for many married women or unmarried women who intentionally get pregnant. I like to think that my mother very much wanted me to exist once she found out I was on the way. It is very difficult for me to comprehend her decisions sixty years ago. When she discovered the lump, from what I understand, she put off going to the doctor. When she did finally go, the doctor assured her that there was nothing to worry about. Did she agree with him? I’ll never know. Did she want to know anything different? I’ll never know. I do know that the same aunt came back once again to Illinois and took care of her those last two years.

I only had one opportunity to ask my aunt questions sometime in my early 30s. When she talked about Dr. Malcom, who was my mother’s doctor, she still blamed him for her beloved sister’s death. She said very little, but even after thirty years, I still remember the hate of that man in her voice and the pain she was feeling even talking about my mother. She never realized, and I didn’t say, that I was interpreting her reaction as having preferred my mother to live rather than me.

Being pregnant and having cancer at the same time must be a special kind of hell on earth. The questions that a woman has to face are monumental. Should I continue with the pregnancy? Should I have an abortion? Should I have chemo while I’m pregnant? Should I wait? Is it known yet what future effects the chemo might have on my child or on me? Will I live long enough for this chid to remember me as her mother? Will my husband love this child or will he resent it for all her life for his losing his wife? What effect will losing me have on my baby?

I have a cousin who survived breast cancer about four years ago. I’m not sure exactly what year it was since I deliberately avoid thinking of the year when I hear news like that. I never say anything like, “Oh, it’s 2007. My cousin was diagnosed with cancer this year.” I think when I was in her home last year she said something about having survived three years with no sign of its return. She was looking forward to the fifth year. I think if a woman survives that long, the likelihood of the cancer returning is very small.

Her breast cancer still has not returned. Instead, she now has an aggressive form of leukemia. In some women, the chemo and radiation received to stop the breast cancer are responsible. She had the option of checking herself into the hospital and undergoing very aggressive chemo. It’s spring. She was told she would not be able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. She would not be able to be around any living plants. She would be in isolation.

She checked herself back out of the hospital the next day. She said no. She wanted to finish the rest of her life surrounded by her family. It’s springtime. She wants to be around the flowers she loves and to watch all the birds in her back yard. She didn’t like the odds of a successful survival being only 40 % or the possibility of the leukemia not returning of only 15%.

It is not for anyone else to question any mother who is pregnant and has cancer. The current legislature is trying to pass laws prohibiting abortion once again even if it means the life of the mother. It is impossible to choose. No other human being should criticize any woman’s choice in a matter such as this. No other human being has the right to tell the woman what to do. She can only listen to her inner voice and make the best choice she thinks is available. Namaste. Attic Annie

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On the Road again…can I travel it again so soon?

I have several cousins and a sister, but there is only one left with whom I am in contact with very often. She was three years ahead of me in school. When we were very young, we played together frequently. This blog is not necessarily in chronological order.

I can’t remember walking the mile home from grade school with her very often because she moved on to high school after my fifth grade year, but I know we did.  My sister graduated to high school when I finished second grade so my cousin took over the job of walking me home safely.

One day she tripped and got some cinders in her knee. The whole village was a massive coal area. We could never fall down anywhere without skinning our knees and ending up with black flecks forever embedded in our skin. She kind of limped the last four or so blocks to my house and I took her upstairs to the bathroom. She sat on the landing with her feet on the steps while I washed the injury and applied the Watkins petroleum jelly. Why would I remember that? Because she thanked me and told me I did a good job helping her. I didn’t hear praise in my house. I tended to remember those moments.

She was much more a sister to me than my biological sibling. I can remember a few things from our childhood. I was a semi-frequent dinner guest. I believe it was in fourth grade when I was sitting at the table using my spoon as a shovel. My aunt noticed and made the comment, ” Aren’t they teaching you ANY table manners at home?” The truth was that, no, no one was paying much attention to me in any area of my life. I think she was more frustrated with the absence of any parenting but I took it as a failure on my part. I remember feeling my face turn hot and glancing at my cousin who just kind of put her head down.

We would play in the living room with my cousin’s toys while her mother played the piano. I used to love to listen to her playing and signing.  We played in her bedroom. One day I attempted a summersault and my heel hit her in her chest. It must have been when she was first aware of becoming a woman. She said, ” If I can’t breastfeed my children because of this, I’ll never forgive you.” She clutched her hands to her chest. That was my first lesson in female biology. I had no idea what breastfeeding was about. I never asked her about that when we were older.I carried that guilt and fear that I had permanently injured her for years.  She has two sons in their forties. I guess their infancies turned out alright.

For the earlier part of my childhood the road ended after her house. There were many wild berry bushes and we would spend many summer hours picking those berries. Eventually the road was constructed through the berry patches and across the ditch to extend it another couple of blocks and new houses were built further down the road and the wild berry picking days were over.

We made mud pies together in her back yard when it rained. Her dad also had berry bushes back there and we would pick the sweetest red raspberries and blackberries and take them into the house. We’d set ourselves down at the table and eat those berries with sugar and whole milk and think we were in heaven.

Her mother saw to it that I had a few outings since there was no one at my home all week who would take me anywhere. I remember the sled trip to the park and sliding down the hills. I also remember attending the children’s theater held in the auditorium of the junior high school. There were 3 D movies and trips to the drive-in complete with sacks of popcorn popped on the stove by my aunt.

Her parents gave her a 45 rpm record player and she had at least a couple of Elvis Presley records that we would sit on her bedroom floor and listen to. She began playing clarinet and I would listen to her practice. Her first three years of high school we didn’t really do that much together. Then when I was a freshman and she was a senior, we were both in band and she would provide the transportation to band events. Afterwards we would drive into the south side of Peoria and go to something called a drive-in where we bought a 15c hamburger, 10c French fries, and a 10c coke after the games.

Too soon she was off to college out of town. We wrote letters occasionally but seldom saw each other. Then I was off to college too. She married and within a year or so had a son during my final year of college. I visited her once and we sat on the swing of the house she and her husband were living in. We’d see each other at family gatherings maybe a few times a year but at that point we were leading separate lives.

She and her husband built their own home while her two boys were still quite young. She was leading her married life and I was the single 70s teacher. Our lives couldn’t have been much further apart. I married, moved away, and wrote once in a while to her father who would relay news between the two of us.

The last time I saw her for many years was at a family Thanksgiving when my son was not yet two months old. The two of us took a walk after lunch. I confessed to her I felt  that having my son was the only thing I had done right in the world. I could tell her that because I knew she would understand.

I guess it was about fifteen or so years ago when the cousins started to meet every two years for a family reunion. She and I gravitated towards each other once again. The only reason I would go would be to see her. Somewhere along that time line something was developed for mass communication called email. She was reluctant to get a computer but was finally yanked into the end of the 20th century. Long distance rates plummeted to where they were reasonable and at last cell phones.

We had ways of communicating now that kept us in touch far more often than before. We became close again. Sometimes I think we are closer now than we have ever been.

Some time in the not too distant future that closeness will end. She had breast cancer about three or so years ago and every year was a milestone that it didn’t return. In some people the effects of the chemotherapy and radiation she endured causes an aggressive form of leukemia.

She called me a few of days ago to tell me she was going into the hospital and about all the aggressive therapy they had planned for her. She called me last evening. I had planned to give her a couple of days to get into the routine of the hospital stay before I called her but she beat me to it. Her voice sounded more firm and energetic like she had already gotten some energy back. She told me that there was a 40% chance that she could go into remission. I thought that sounded somewhat positive because she had fought so hard during her earlier chemo days. Then she said there would be a 15% chance that it wouldn’t reoccur. It dawned on me suddenly what she was telling me. She said she checked herself back out of the hospital and would be spending the rest of her days with her family.

I just walked down this same road with my oldest childhood friend whom I lost in November. It is not going to be easy. I promised I would giver her time with her family before I flew back up to see her and spend time with her. She talked about the peace and calmness that her decision gave her. She’s ready. I’m not. I’ve got to work on that so when I do see her we don’t spend the time crying. I’m hoping she can provide me with some memories I have forgotten. We make each other laugh all the time. That is my prayer that when I see her we will laugh until we cry one more time.

 

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Jesus loves me. Dying in peace

Jesus loves me, this I know” I can still see myself sitting in that front row primary Sunday School classroom with Mrs. Z standing in front of me leading all of us in song. Singing made me happy. Even though the older I got, the more I felt like nobody loved me, I was safe in the knowledge that at least Jesus did. Those were the very early days when I still could feel happy.

 

Sixty years have passed since that memory. My relationship with Jesus has changed. I no longer really address my prayers to him. I pray directly to a God who has changed in my mind as well. The bearded white male God of my childhood has been replaced by something the likes of which is really impossible to describe. Instead of male, God is both Mother and Father. But there is no body that I picture. Instead God is a feeling, a feeling of love and comfort that surrounds me and gives me peace. It took me years to really understand what was meant when we sang “God is love“. That was one of the first concepts about God that I was taught but one of the most difficult to understand.

I subscribe to a daily inspiration email. My thoughts about Jesus were stimulated by this story. I have read this story several times before. You probably have too. I try to talk to God the way many people talk to Jesus.Perhaps it is easier for them to picture an Anglo-Saxon fair haired man listening to them. Whatever, if I can transition as peacefully as the man in this story did, I will be blessed.  I wish to be in my own bed, wrapped in the arms of love.

Namaste. Attic Annie

DADDY’S EMPTY CHAIR

A man’s daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed. The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit.

“I guess you were expecting me,” he said.

“No, who are you?” said the father. The minister told him his name and then remarked, “I saw the empty chair, and I figured you knew I was going to show up.” “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”

Puzzled, the minister shut the door. “I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head.

“I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day four years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I will be with you always.’ Then just speak to him in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’ So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon. “Did he die in peace?” he asked. “Yes, when I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead.

But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?”

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, “I wish we could all go like that.”

 

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A Celebration of Life for a simple musician

I have just returned from a “Celebration of Life” for a musician who was a major player in our church’s music department. I really didn’t know him. I just knew him through his Sunday and concert performances. We did not know one another beyond occasional “hellos” as we passed.

He was one of the first persons I remember seeing the first time I attended a service with this congregation. He was on the platform with his long hair flowing, his jeans, and a mustache and beard…or maybe it was a goatee…I don’t remember now. This was almost six years ago.

I saw him talking with some of the other musicians on the platform and some of the men and women in the gathering around him. I had arrived a little early and the service had not yet begun.

I suddenly felt like I had entered some kind of time warp, like I was back among the flower children of the 60s. There were sandals on the men, long hair, and tie died shirts. I wondered where the previous forty+ years had gone.

At first I felt uncomfortable. After all, this was a house of God. As a child, two of the first things I learned was to wear my “Sunday best” and to read a plaque above the door which said, “This is the House of God. Enter in silence.” That is what you did.You entered, you bowed your head in prayer, you responded at the appropriate time, you sang at the appropriate time, but to talk to a friend? NEVER! Not in God’s house.  Yet here he was laughing and talking as he prepared for the service.

Everyone quieted down and the service began. All of a sudden I realized I was home again. As I looked around the congregation, I realized these “hippies” were not the only ones. There was a wide range of clothing from suits to jeans, T shirts to shirts and ties. The musician was just one of a rainbow of people in that congregation.

As a person who has since early childhood felt like the perennial outsider, I realized that the entire congregation was filled with people who probably were perennial outsiders themselves. But here, there was acceptance. Here there was safety to be ourselves. He certainly was the epitome of that idea.

There was camaraderie, there was fellowship, there was love. Sunday after Sunday he was there to sing songs about that love and friendship and building bridges. He would take rock and roll songs (my childhood minister would have had apoplexy at the thought) and help the congregation to see the connection between the music and the message. He was a good musician. He had several bands throughout the years, but I don’t think he was ever really much known outside Ft. Worth. But then again, I really didn’t know him.

His music reached people’s hearts. As I looked around the church I noticed that it was completely filled downstairs, and there was a good amount of people upstairs in the balcony as well. Music was not his whole life. He was also a teacher. I’m sure many of the people assembled were members of his faculty.

Actually, he was struck down at school. He was on the faculty of a special school that deals with behavior problems. There was a fight and he stepped in to break it up. Suddenly he fell, the victim of a brain aneurysm. When he was admitted to the hospital, it was discovered that he had four aneurysms altogether. They could have ruptured at any time but the extra emotion and physical exertion it took to break up the fight was all it took. His body endured a twelve hour operation but it was too much to last much longer. He was taken off life support a couple of days later.

He was a simple man, in my opinion. I don’t recall ever seeing him at church in anything other than jeans and a long sleeved shirt or on rock and roll Sunday, a tee shirt. He would sing his heart out with his songs.

The hospital where I volunteer takes in everyone including the homeless. Many of these patients also have long hair and various amounts of facial hair, not always trimmed. At first I was put off by them, kind of like my first reaction to the musician. Then one day it struck me that they could very well be like him. I tried to imagine him in one of the hospital beds. It was then that I was able to see the Christ Spirit in all of these men. It was the musician at church who first showed me the Christ Spirit within himself. I could see his self rather than just the shell of him. That was the musician’s gift to me. There are a lot of people who will miss him. I will be one of them. Namaste. Attic Annie

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It’s tough to lose a friend

 

Love, Beauty, Strength

In September I visited my childhood friend in Chicago. We didn’t do much other than hang around. The first evening of my visit and the next day involved going to the hospital because she was dehydrated. She constantly dealt with nausea, vomiting and dehydration  as a result of the chemo.

I wrote in my previous blog about the fact that we had planned a safari to Africa and she was determined to go when her body regained some of its strength. That was not to be.

I received a call on a Tuesday in November from a mutual friend saying my friend’s colon had perforated and she was taken to the hospital. She was not expected to live more than 48 hours. When I spoke with her sister on Wednesday evening, I was told it was a matter of hours.

The doctors, after all this time, still were not fully aware of  her willingness to fight. It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that I was called again by her brother-in-law saying she had passed at 11:55 pm  Saturday night…the very time I woke  up. Most of the time she was heavily sedated but she did wake occasionally between Tuesday and Saturday. The pain must have been unbearable. I can only imagine the level of morphine needed to relieve it. I was told later that before she drew her last breath her temperature reached 108 degrees from the infection.

Her sister wanted her to have the colostomy which would have stalled the inevitable for maybe a couple more months. She declined saying she was ready to face whatever.

Saturday morning I received a call from another mutual friend. She has been the primary person to watch over my friend since this all began. She and our friend struck up a friendship more than twenty years ago which lasted throughout this whole ordeal. She surprised me by offering to pay for a plane ticket to Chicago for me to say good bye. My friend had included this other friend in her will because of all the constant companionship and the willingness to care for the dog she took in and adopted. This woman voluntarily drove halfway across Chicago in order to walk the dog on days when my friend was in the hospital or just didn’t have the strength. This friend was willing to share so I could be there. That’s just the kind of person who was drawn into my friend’s life.

It was an anguishing decision, but after a couple of hours and a futile attempt to find someone to watch my dog, I called my wise friend Maxine who brought me back to reality. Maxine asked me who I would be serving if I flew to Chicago. She was right. I had already said good bye, my friend was surrounded by relatives, and she was not even very conscious when I received the first call. I  returned the call and declined.

The flight I would have been able to take would have gotten me to the hospital around 9 PM or later Saturday night. The trip would have not served any purpose other than to share my sorrow with her relatives.

I’ve tried so hard over the years to figure out our friendship. We were close in middle school. We drifted apart in high school until we finally had one class together our senior year when we reconnected. We shared the same lab table. She was there for me in high school when I almost broke down in class after my suicide attempt. She just showed up at the door. Her reason had something to do with the school newspaper of which she was editor and I was a columnist. Her timing was perfect.

I visited her and we wrote several times throughout college. She was the one I stayed with in her sorority house when I attended the winter formal with my first true love. She was the one  who offered me a place to stay when I spent a few months in Washington, DC before I started teaching. I went out there for a few more weeks with my fiance (who by this time had canceled the wedding due to Viet Nam). She was going to be a bridesmaid for me. She moved to Chicago and I to Peoria. We both became involved in our careers and our single lives.  We drifted apart again.

I married and started my several moves. The one year we were back near Chicago I once again saw her several times. I was able to attend her wedding when my son was one month old. My husband and I were invited to the Chicago Cubs game and dinner party for her 29th birthday three weeks before we moved again to Texas.

We once again led separate lives. I got divorced. A couple of years later she mailed me a Christmas card and signed her birth name. I knew what had happened. We reconnected again in the 80s. Over the past 25 years we saw each other every couple of years and talked a few times a year on the phone.

When I told her I had to have heart surgery, she didn’t ask if I needed her. She said “I’m coming down,” There was no question with her. She was in my home the day of my release from the hospital and stayed a week before my cousin took over.

I explained to someone that, except for my cousin, I am not really close with any relatives. My cousin, Maxene, and this life time friend had formed the legs of my stool that were my support system. I almost felt the ragged sawing of one of those legs throughout all of this. Now I feel wobbly and not as secure.

Due to the loss of my mother and aunt in my early childhood, my father, my first fiance, and  then my ex,  I have not had an easy time opening up to receive any kind of relationship anymore. I feared the pain of losses. There had been so many I felt myself becoming more robotic with each one. Most of the time I have turned myself numb to avoid the pain. This time, I can’t stop feeling it and tears spring to my eyes readily two weeks later if I allow them,  but somehow I know in a way it is making me more connected to something rather than cut off. At least I know I’m not a robot this time. Maybe that is good. Maybe I’m getting better.

My friend had bought me a Christmas ornament which was found when her family and friends were cleaning out her apartment. It was mailed to me a couple of days ago. The ornament was a Susan G Komen angel. On the pink ribbon are the words Love, Beauty, Strength. Those three words couldn’t sum up my friend any more succinctly. She was a treasure.

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