Monday, March 28, 2011

The Gift of Friendship...No Matter How Brief

We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.
Joseph Roux

I knew her 3 weeks and 4 days and then she was gone. Taken by a rare form of thyroid cancer. Although I physically only spent time with her twice, I feel as devastated by her death as if she'd been a lifetime friend.

I met Mary Ann in NYC March 5th. She was at Hope Lodge for cancer treatment. I was traveling with someone who knew her and worked with her. Although she is from my town, I didn't know her so I went along to visit her as a nice gesture.

She appeared, looking the very picture of NY chic in her knee high riding boots and flowing coral cardigan. She gave us a tour of the Hope House, (that is, the areas where visitors are allowed) which gave the sense of a home-like hotel. An institution that offers many lovely home-like touches, but is still way to perfect to be home.

We then took a walk to get water at the corner store, which led to an amble through the streets. We visited a vintage shop, Saks, she lit a candle at St. Patrick's Cathedral, we watched the skaters glide across the ice at Rockefeller Center, and shared a hot dog from a street vendor.

Nothing remarkable, but it changed everything.

It was one of two life changing meetings that happened to me that weekend.

About a week after returning home, I received news that she was returning home for terminal care. The cancer had taken over and there was nothing to be done. I was anxious to see her and prayed that I might. My friend called me and said that she was given 3-10 days to live...and that she wanted a haircut.

For pity's sake...a haircut?

This I could do.

We arranged the time for Saturday after I finished a wedding and went to Mary Ann's house. She was considerably weaker in that short 3 weeks; tan from jaundice and a bit wobbly on her feet. The cancer, which had now spread to the brain, left her momentarily foggy when searching for words, but I could still see the woman who captured my heart.

We spent a wonderful 2 hours visiting, hugging, crying and laughing. It was wonderful, but I was achingly aware that I had most likely given her her last haircut. (And she rocked it!)

The following Tuesday, I received a call at work telling me that she was in Hospice. As soon as I finished work, I went over. I doubt she knew I was there, but I met her sister and visited with her husband (of 30+ years) who touched my heart as he tenderly attended to Mary Ann's needs.

The call came the next day that she had died at 2:45 am Wednesday morning.

I've been amazed at how deeply her death has affected me since I've knew her for such a short time. I feel I almost don't have a right to grieve her as deeply as I do.

But in spite of the pain, I am grateful for the gift of her life which touched mine, no matter how briefly.

6 comments:

miketalley73 said...

very touching. Sorry for her family's loss and yours. Cancer sucks

jot777 said...

An artist does not require much time before beginning to WEEP in the presence of a fine Monet.

An artist knows that one has been given a great HONOR to look upon such an EXQUISITE MASTERPIECE.

The Masterpiece maintains quality, whether embraced or dismissed by the observer.

The observer displays innate quality in the embracing of the valued masterpiece.

Grieve to the fullest, My Dear, for you are an Artist of The LORD's Own Choosing. :) (Psalm 91:1-2)

thatgirlblogs said...

and again we have to ask ourselves, WHEN will a cure be found? so sorry for your loss and hoping you find some rest from this soon. you are a good friend, for the haircut, which I know must have made her feel more human in a sterile, yucky time.

Real Housewife of Naperville said...

I have grieved people that I haven't even met firsthand. There is no parameter guideline that dictates how an individual touches our soul.

Renee said...

What a beautiful tribute to Mary Ann and the bond of friendship you sweetly shared, Ranae.

Erin said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, but so joyous that your loving hands got to give her last haircut...and that her loving heart touched your life.