Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A FAREWELL, and A Love Story

This was written on Sunday morning before I went to see Lori. Please hold her and her family close in thought.

It's time for me to say goodbye to my friend. My heart is as heavy as its ever been and yet, it is so full of love. The depth of that love is limitless and that love will live on forever, despite the fact that our days together on this earth are coming to an end.

Lori isn't just my friend, she's my soul sister in every sense of the word. I have been carried from the fires of hell by the sheer force of Lori's love and concern, her fierce protective nature, her persistence in demanding a better life for me. She saw my future when I was too blinded to see much of anything. As I spun out of control, Lori, living with a terminal illness, was the one who remained calm and focused. It was Lori who guided me, gently at times, and forcefully when necessary to the beautiful place where I find myself today.

I closed a chapter that should have been closed long ago and Lori was instrumental in helping me turn the page. She knew exactly what to say, when to say it and how to phrase her words such that I would hear the message, and be compelled to take action.

And today, my heart is shattered in ways I could never have imagined possible.

Most recently, I was describing our friendship, really, our "love affair" and I expressed how I believe there are those who might live ten lifetimes and never quite experience what we share. Each of us quick to credit the other, each quicker to jump in to help, each rolling up our sleeves to make things happen. We sense each other. We finish each others thoughts, as if we share one brain. Some of those with whom we've had the honor to work beside have often joked that it's like they are hearing things in stereo. The biggest difference is my tendency to take forever to formulate my thought when Lori very quickly and succinctly captures the essence of the moment in a simple phrase.

This always, and still, amazes me. I can't count the number of times I'd simply remark, "Yup, what SHE said!" Those closest to us know how this works and just laugh. They know. They know, for the most part, what is said by one of us, is meant by both of us. On those rare times we didn't agree, there was an uncanny ability for us to discuss our points of view without ever going off into the proverbial weeks. We discussed the topic, we listened and we both learned. Lori might argue with me, but I'd say I learned far more than I ever "taught" yet, there was never a competition. Not. EVER.

Lori helped me be the best version of myself I can be. She laughed with me, she cried with me, she lifted me to do things I never believed I could do. She knew. She saw what I couldn't. She assured me I could and I followed her lead, embraced her suggestions with absolute blind faith and total trust, safe in the knowledge that she would never let me fall. And, she never did.

When I met Lori online, she was in the midst of watching climbing tumor markers, waiting for a diagnosis of metastatic disease. It would finally happen shortly after we began having private conversations outside of the public social media circles where we originally connected. How grateful I am for the visions of Alicia and Jody to build a twitter community around the #BCSM hashtag, and how grateful too, for Dr. Attai who embraced the hashtag from its inception, to help it become, not only a place of support but also a place that all could turn for accurate and reliable information.

I am her #FearlessFriend. There have been more than a handful of times I believed myself to be nothing more than a Shitty Cancer Friend, doing all of the things I knew NOT to do. I would find myself crying over the circumstances surrounding setbacks, and progression, and all of the other lousy things that occur along the disease trajectory for those living with metastatic breast cancer. Very matter of factly, she would state, "Sweetie, but we always knew this day would come."

Today, there is no room for the Shitty Cancer Friend. Today, I am fearless. Today, I will sit beside her, holding her hand, letting her know how deeply she is loved, saying goodbye for what will likely be the last time we will be sitting side by side. I will let her know I will preserve her legacy, make sure she is comforted in the knowledge that her legacy will live on forever, and most importantly, that her son and her husband will always know she didn't surrender to this disease, she didn't give up, she didn't stop fighting, she's not a warrior who lost a battle. She's a woman who lived a full and beautiful life. She's a woman who fully embraced every opportunity, who made a difference in the lives of more people than she wants to believe she helped, who spoke out against the things she knew to be wrong without ever alienating anyone.

I will surround her with love and support. And I will wish her Godspeed as she closes this chapter of her mortal life. And I will assure her over and over again, that I will pick up everything that she left unfinished and see it through for her. All of it. Whatever is needed. Because she would do that, and oh so more, if the table was reversed.

Cancer doesn't play fair. It's cruel and it's relentless and we are nothing more than pawns being picked off, or knocked down at will. I will continue to push for you, my love. I will do whatever I can to make sure everything is (almost) exactly as you would have wanted. I'll do my best.

I will miss you, Lori. But then, I didn't have to say that.... Of Course You Know That.

I will love you always, and always, I will look to you for guidance, for answers, for help.... for everything. Nothing will change for me, except I'll be seeking answers, instead of from a text response or a ringing phone, I'll search for the answers inside my heart where you will live forever. A piece of it is gone, and it will never be filled again. It belongs to you as it has since the moment we met, and it will belong to you for the rest of my days.

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