If Sandy made me sit down and take notice that I might have been burning the candle at both ends, the past couple of days have wiped me out. Stupid storm threw me off my game. Ruined my rhythm.
There was a time I could roll with the punches, maybe not the emotional punches, but the practical stuff. If circumstances set me back, I had the ability to tune in with laser focus and get everything back on track. Straighten up a messy room or get paperwork in order. It never took long to recover and have everything running smoothly in no time at all, and with what amounted to just a little extra effort.
Now? Not so much.
Just recovering from Frankenstorm, I could not begin to address everything until my internet was fully restored. I had to access records in order to put together reports to complete insurance audit paperwork. Ditto, payroll tax returns. Last Thursday, everything was up and running. And last Thursday, I received a text from my very closest friend in the whole world.
"My dad died."
It was not unexpected. He was 87 years old and he lived a full life. My friend is many things to many people but most of all, she is a devoted daughter. As her dad's health began to deteriorate, she rearranged her home so her mom and dad could move in with her and her family. She was his primary caretaker and I knew she would be distraught when he died.
I spent most of Thursday with her. Yesterday, he was laid to rest. He was a veteran of World War II. He saw combat. He was awarded the Purple Heart after being shot by Nazi soldiers. I could fill pages sharing stories about his life and about some of the times I enjoyed with her dad. He was warm and kind, witty and wise and he was a loving husband and an extraordinary dad. We have oftentimes talked about how lucky we were...... our dads were, in a word, PERFECT.
On Sunday, I sat quietly behind her in the funeral parlor. Yesterday, I stood off to the side as she rose to say a few words about her dad at the conclusion of mass. The plan? If she couldn't get through her eulogy, I would step in and finish reading it for her. I never doubted her for one second. She spoke beautifully, and at times tearfully, but she spoke her words, from beginning to end.
We exited the church, got into our cars and thus began the procession to the cemetery. Despite being a veteran, her dad was buried in a Catholic cemetery and it happens to be the same cemetery where my own dad is buried. This is not a small cemetery. It occupies many acres of land and many thousands of people are buried at this cemetery.
As I was sitting in my car waiting to exit, I quickly realized I was beside the area known as the Holy Innocents. It's an area where children are buried. I was alone in my car and I put my head down and began to cry. When I see the pinwheels and the toys, it upsets me in ways I can't begin to explain. I grabbed my sunglasses even though it wasn't terribly sunny, indeed it was quite overcast, but I wanted to be sure to hide my tears when I got out of the car.
I knew we were going to section 41. My dad is buried in section 47. I planned to visit his grave after the burial ceremony. I would find my way through the winding roads before heading back to my friend's home. Find my way? As I was walking toward the gravesite for the ceremony, I looked toward the other side of the street to see a sign that read "Section 47." The sunglasses hid the tears that were spilling from my eyes.
Still I didn't realize where I was standing. I only knew her dad was on one side of the road and mine was on the other. I'm not quite sure why she was waiting for me at the curb but as I approached her, I simply said, "My dad is buried right across the street." We walked toward her dad's grave arm in arm, both with tear stained faces.
I was among the first to place the long stemmed red rose on her dad's coffin. I turned to get into my car expecting to drive what would amount to a couple of blocks to the row where I expected to find my dad. Except, there would be no driving, there would be no rows..... my car was parked adjacent to the row where my dad is buried. And my grandparents.
I don't know what the odds are..... but I know that it's less than a short city block from her dad's grave to mine. And I didn't expect that. It would take less than a minute to walk from one site to the other. And the emotions bubbled up until they overflowed and I am drained. I was blindsided.
And now, I am exhausted. Trying to find some sort of meaning where there is none. It's just an odd coincidence. But it caught me off guard and it's knocked me for a loop.
My brain has shut down on me. There are other things on my mind and there are plenty of other things on her mind, too. None of it is appropriate to share without invading the privacy of others. Someone recently used the phrase "hierarchy of care" which pretty much explains both of our lives. Despite both having had cancer diagnoses within months of each other, it seems neither of us ever manages to put ourselves on the top rung on that hierarchy.
I think it's okay to have others at the top of YOUR list as long as YOU are at the top of SOMEONE'S list. My friend has placed so many others above herself in her hierarchy of care and today, I want to be sure she knows she is at the top of my list. And she can have that spot for as long as necessary. She has dropped everything and run for me on more than one occasion. And if I called her tomorrow, she'd drop everything again.
I'm getting my thoughts together and hope I will be able to express the gratitude I feel for so many things as Thanksgiving is upon us. This is my prequel. With a grateful heart for the gift of your friendship and with all my love...... This is for you, L.