Today is not a good day!
There is no end to it. There is NO END to the endings in life and that is all there is to it. We are born, we live, and then we die. Most of the time we tend to delude ourselves into thinking we can make plans for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, but then we get “the phone call”, which acts as a reminder that all we really have is today and maybe not even all of that.
Our phone rings and when we pick up the call, we hear a voice that is at once familiar and unfamiliar. We recognize the voice but can immediately detect a heaviness to it, a sadness, a stricken grief about to spill over the cell phone waves and within a few sentences you are told about another ending.
This is what happened to me this morning. One of my very closest friends called and when I saw her name on my phone, I found myself smiling as I cheerily answered,
“Well hello there dear friend!”
It was unusual for her to call me on a Sunday morning so when I heard the timbre of her voice as she greeted me, I instinctively said “Oh oh!” to which she replied, “that’s right Juanita, this is not good news”.
My mind immediately scrolled back to our last conversation when she told me her sister was diagnosed with cancer. My mind then leaped into anxious thoughts about what she was going to tell me about her sister because she and her sister are very close despite the 18 year difference in their ages.
But, then as she continued talking I heard,
“Tom’s gone, Juanita!”
(My mind silently reacted with the word WHAT?)
“He had a stroke”
“They moved him around to three different hospitals trying to save him”
(NOOOOOO! This. Is. NOT. possible).
I began to gasp in shock and stuttered as I said “Surely this is not possible?”
“It is Juanita…he is gone”
(“Stroke?”) (HOW is this possible?) He was the healthiest friend we had. He was a walker, a runner, a daily golfer. He did not smoke, rarely drank, and he ate healthy. He was slender and strong and vital.)
She said despondently,
They said something about a brain bleed…I am not sure”
i responded with “If you need me I will hop on the next plane”
“No, its o.k. I have so many phone calls to make and so many people to tell”
“O.k. I totally understand….I won’t call you for a while because I know you will be inundated with family and friends. But please feel free to call me the minute you feel the need of anything, even if it is just to talk”
“I will. Thank you Juanita”
We have known this couple since we moved to Cloquet, Minnesota in 1980, and this little town is located about 15 minutes out of Duluth. I remember the first day I met her. I was around 3O years old and I was busily wallpapering our newly acquired house, (yup, even back then I was always on a ladder). The doorbell rang and I opened the door to a young, beautiful, dark haired, slender woman. She greeted me and introduced herself as our neighbor who lived 3 houses down the street from us. She smiled as she meekly told me she was collecting for the heart society. (Ironic since it would be over thirty years later that she would undergo a quintuple by-pass herself). She apologetically said “This is legit, really it is!” I remember throwing my head back and laughing out loud at her genuineness. I immediately liked this sweet sincere woman.
We attended the same church and we introduced our husbands to each other, who really enjoyed each other a lot. They formed a strong friendship too. Lucky us because this 4 way mutual admiration society doesn’t always happen with couples. Her boys were slightly older than ours and they occasionally would come over to watch our children. All 4 of us enjoyed going out dancing and we enjoyed our young adulthood together as we raised our families. They were both born and raised and married in the same general area of Northern Minnesota, so they are well and widely known. My husband and I just kept moving to accommodate his career changes….so we leave little pieces of ourselves with our friends every time we move.
She and I began to form a deep friendship that came to resemble a chosen sisterhood which endures to this day. We have laughed together, cried together, mourned together, and been there for each other. I always tell her that despite the odds, I stubbornly continue to aspire to become like her though I regularly fail miserably. I will just never be as good of a human being as she is. I try, but I fail. I satisfy myself to live in the shadow of her goodness and light.
Unsurprisingly, she has a multitude of family and friends who not only love her but adore her! She will be well attended to by many people who care a lot about both her and Tom. To my utmost amazement, despite all of these admirers, she thought to call me within 45 minutes of his passing. I was and am deeply moved.
Ahead, it will be a long road to recovery for her, especially since she and Tom have been friends since Junior high school, and eventually married and stayed married for over 52-53 years. They were a very devoted couple and he took such pride in his best friend and wife.
Life is such a mystery. There are unhealthy people who live long and perfectly healthy people who die unexpectedly. I have long said that the greater the pain of a loss of a loved one, the greater the blessing of that person was to your life. Right now though, any type of feel good philosophy is lost on the person whose heart is broken and who is just trying to just breathe to get through this.
Years ago, when I was voicing frustration about hurtful things I did not understand about people or life, I would say to my Mother….
“I will tell you what Mother! Some day, when I die and go to heaven, I am going to sit down at that heavenly table with Jesus and ask him a whole lot of questions!!!”
My mother smiled and responded with, “Oh Juanita, she when you go to Heaven you won’t even have to ask. When you die, it will ALL become very clear!
Bye Tom…In the wake of your leaving, we already miss you so very much. Husband, Father, Brother, brother-in-law, Grandfather and very good friend. Al cried when I gave him the news of the phone call. He is so sad!
Al said he loved golf and beer…not necessarily in that order. Oh, and he said
“I loved that guy. He was a very good friend to me”
Please save us a seat at the banquet table!
Love, Juanita and Al
Oh, and the rest of you use every chance you get to give a hug to those you love. It may be the last hug between you!