Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My friend, Sheila, and me taken a few years ago


I have always been strong. I've had to be. I am stoic by nature, roll with the punches, take life as it comes, but underneath the facade, I am a fixer. I worry needlessly about my kids and grandkids, but deep in my heart, I know I don't need to. God will take care of them. Bad things will befall them, good things will come unexpectedly. Life happens to all of us; death comes to each of us.

Throughout my life, I have lost so many friends and loved ones, and each time, I have picked myself up and moved forward. Tonight I am profoundly sad. My best friend, Sheila, who is in remission from brain cancer is terminal. She has been "terminal" for twenty years. We recently learned that none of the medical professionals expected her to live this long. No one with her kind of tumor survived past a couple years. She's made medical history.

I have witnessed her steady decline over the years. Some days her speech is garbled, and it is difficult for her to process and respond and communicate. She was released from the hospital today (she was in over the weekend with a urinary tract infection) and as of today she will be at home receiving hospice care. I just spoke with her. We expressed our love and friendship for one another, and I grunted a hug through the phone, across the miles and into her ear. She won't remember talking to me. In fact while we were talking, her husband said, "The dog missed you while you were gone," and she replied, "I don't care about that. I was at Linda's."

I laughed out loud. "Yes you were!" I assured her. "And we had fun."
If she only realized how much she IS with me.

Our shared memories go back forty-two years. We were next door neighbors in a tiny, rural Alaska town. We were kids, newlyweds, expectant mothers, and we regarded ourselves as the only 'normal' army wives there. Even when we had to part and return to our home towns, we stayed connected through email letters; those red and blue edged, onion skin envelopes carried a week's worth of baby brags and marriage woes across country. When we could afford it we telephoned long distance. When I went through divorce I didn't go to a marriage counselor. I flew to visit her for a week and read aloud my angst filled poetry. I sat at her kitchen table admiring her china cabinet filled with cobalt blue glassware. And we shared our secrets. We got each other through births, life and death. And here we go again.

Her husband said the doctor told him she has weeks, perhaps months, but her time is tick, tick, ticking ... and I am so DAMNED MAD AT THAT TIME BOMB.

23 comments:

Chatty Crone said...

I am so sorry Linda - Hugs - I lost my best friend a year ago - and it's hell. Prayers for you both.
sandie

Beth M. Wood said...

Oh Linda. I am SO DAMNED MAD for you. I'm MAD at the bone cancer (i refuse to capitalize it...refuse to give it more power than it already holds) that took my grandfather. The breast cancer that sickened my aunt, and then came charging back into her lymph nodes while she was caring for her husband, my uncle, who was battling (and then lost his life to) a brain tumor. And then, within a year, it took her, too. Leaving their three boys parentless. I am PISSED OFF at the cancer that has taken friends and relatives, and scared so many of us.

I hope that you can find peace in the memories you two soul sisters made over the years. I know you will write, and then write some more. And DAMN IT I know that even if she can't remember your last conversation, she knows how much you love her, and she can feel how much love she has for you , in return.

You two have been blessed with a rare and treasured friendship. NO ONE , not even that evil bastard cancer can take what is in your heart.

((HUGS))

beth

Linda O'Connell said...

Sandie and Beth,
Thank you. Thank you. Hugs to both of you.

Sioux said...

I read about a woman with cancer who watched the movie "Kill Bill" on a regular basis (daily? weekly?). I've never seen the whole movie (just bits here and there) but it made her stronger.

Perhaps YOU need to watch "Kill Bill" to get enough strength for the both of you?

I am so sorry. Empty words, I know...

Linda O'Connell said...

Took a class with Elisabeth Kubler Ross, expert on death and dying who said imaging works to kill cancer cells. Thanks, Sioux. I don't think I could watch Kill Bill more than once :)

June Freaking Cleaver said...

Cancer is a thief, taking our most valued friends and family members. I'm sorry that your friend is going through this. I'm sorry that you have to go through this journey too. I hope that the hospice people make her as comfortable as possible.

Debora said...

Just want to say I'm sorry...for you and your friend. Miracles do happen though, so don't give up your prayers.

Linda O'Connell said...

Thank you Kim and Debora. Hospice workers are angels on earth.

Thisisme. said...

Prayers for you and your dear friend, Linda. It is so sad. Like Chatty, I lost a very dear friend just over a year ago, and it's not good. Even though I wouldn't want her back to be suffering, it doesn't ease the pain we feel at their passing. I pray that it will be peaceful and painfree at the end. Take care and please keep us posted.

Odie Langley said...

Sorry Linda. I know it hurts to see friends get worse with sickness. She has been blessed to have you as a friend.

Fresh Garden said...

I feel sorry, Linda. Don't give up your prayers!

jabblog said...

This is so hard but I hope she remains happy and has a peaceful, pain-free passing.

irishoma said...

Hi Linda,
So sorry to hear about Sheila's cancer. You are so blessed to have each other, and I hope she stays around for a long time.
Donna

Linda O'Connell said...

Thank you everyone for your comments and concern; it is a comfort.

Carol said...

Linda,
I am so very sorry to hear about your dear friend. What a beautiful friendship you two have shared over the past 40+ years. A gift, and a blessing.

Lynn said...

Love and hugs to both of you.

Tammy said...

I'm so sorry to hear that fuse is growing shorter for her, but what a wonderful tribute to your friendship. When reading your post, it struck me that the only thing almost as good as a visit with a wonderful friend is having that friend *think* you had a wonderful visit. LOL. Hugs and prayers to you both.

Cactus Country said...

I lost a dear friend several years ago to a quick acting brain cancer. When I visited her for what I knew would be the last time, she hugged me and told me thanks for all the fun we had together, then she said, "Dying sure sucks." It made us both laugh. So we parted that day with smiles on our faces. I miss her every day, and you'll miss your friend. But remember the good times, not the dying part.

BECKY said...

Oh Linda...this literally brought tears to my eyes. I know what you've gone through with Sheila the past few years. There are no words to express the sadness I'm feeling right now...and thinking of my long-distance army friends, too. Think I better jump on a plane!

Linda O'Connell said...

Lou and Becky,
My heart will eventually heal, especially with my supportive friends. Thank you for your kind comments.

Claudia Moser said...

So sorry for you, I will pray for her!

Bouncin' Barb said...

Linda, I'm sorry to hear about your friend. I know we've just met but I lost my husband 6 years ago to Hepatitis C/cirrhosis/liver cancer. We were given 2-3 years notice. We mourned together while he was alive. He held me while I grieved. He assured his children he would be fine and they needed to enjoy everyday of life. When he passed, I was able to deal with it all better than I'd ever have expected. Watching him decline was sad and not what he wanted. He wanted quality of life and I'm sure your friend does as well. If you have to talk to her every day, call her. She'll have lucid moments and that's when you can tell her what you need to say. I hope this helps. You can always email me anytime. Hugs! Barb

Pam said...

Of all the blogs in the blogosphere; how did I end up here reading this post?
We all have or had our hearts wrapped around one special best friend; so the suffering you feel is because you've loved and shared so deeply.
I can't show I care by
drying your tears
I can't tenderly touch your shoulder
or make a nice meal for you and your friend to share.
But as I write this; I leave my compassion here, and my energy of spirit for you to remember what a wonderful friend you are being right now and I envision a path where healing and enriching remembrance begins.
Mindfully- Pam