A friend of mine, Tracy, died last night. I can't say we were 'best' friends by any means. But she was a friend nonetheless, as well as being the sister-in-law of my best/closest friend.
I've known my best friend Cassandra for 15yrs, meaning I've known Tracy this long as well. Tracy was her SIL for 20yrs. They were like sisters. You know how your best friend's family sort of morphs into your own at times and you find yourself attending everything from kitchen parties to weddings together. Tracy was only 6yrs older than me. We had 'celebrated' together on different occasions ... she was a friend as well as part of my closest friend's family.
She was first diagnosed with breast cancer almost 2yrs ago. She did the chemo treatments, had the mastectomy, did everything she was supposed to do to fight it. She was doing well, and supposedly it was gone. A little over 5 weeks ago, she was out with her husband, saying "you know, maybe I'll go back to work in the next couple of weeks." Instead, she went for a checkup and they found three tumors on her brain.
She didn't want to die. She had alot more laughing to do, more life to experience. All the life's events she was looking forward to. The kids graduation, their weddings ... she knew she wouldn't be here for any of it. At that time, less than 2 months ago, they gave her a year.
Tracy was a very strong woman with one of the most up-beat, positive attitudes imaginable. She was 43yrs old and wanted to fight. She had alot to live for, and alot of people who loved her. She had all the radiation treatments on her brain to shrink the tumors and again, did everything she was 'supposed' to do, but it wasn't letting go this time. These past couple of weeks, she deteriorated at an incredible rate, and the disease began to attack her body again. Literally eating her from the inside out.
A few weeks ago, when I had my hair cut, we walked through the mall afterwards because we knew Tracy was there and she wanted to see what I had done for the 'surprise' cut. We didn't see her because by the time I was done, she had gotten tired and gone home. I look back at that day now, at being upset over the haircut and I remember standing in a fast food lineup after we couldn't find her, thinking at the time "stop being such an idiot about your hair ... it's going to grow back!!! Look at what Tracy's been through, she lost ALL her hair, and it wasn't exactly her choice to do so, so suck it up princess and stop being such a stupid schmuck!!!" That was only a few weeks ago, and we were still thinking 'maybe she'll beat it' ... but last night she ran out of fight, said her good bye's and went to sleep.
Death really sucks.
I don't understand what lesson we're supposed to learn from the death of a wonderful person, who had an incredibly infectious laugh, who had a husband and two children who loved and needed her ... and yet, some idiot can walk into VA tech yesterday and kill so many innocent people. For what? If someone 'had to go', why couldn't that psycho (or pick any other psycho) simply get smacked by a bus before he entered the building. The rest of it never would have happened. Leave the people like Tracy. Non smoker, non drug user, social drinker, enjoyed sports, generally took care of herself. Great Mom. Great wife. Great friend. Leave the people like her who touch the people they meet, simply with their personalities, and are genuinely loved by young and old, and just wipe those other sh*theads out in some 'final destination-like' way and be done with it. I could understand those laws of nature.
But losing people like Tracy, or my Dad to a body/soul robbing disease like Cancer ... there's no justification in those laws of nature for me. It doesn't make sense, and I don't see the big cosmic 'point'.
I think when the end comes, people know when they're dying. My grandmother waved at my mom and dad across the room from her hospital bed, and called them over to say goodbye, my mom and dad called me home the weekend before dad died, and when the ambulance finally came to get him a few days later, to take him to the hospital, he didn't want to get in because he knew if he did, he wouldn't be coming home again. And in those final seconds before he died, after being non-responsive since just after I got there the night before, he opened his eyes and looked at my mom. He knew. I think Tracy knew also.
There was a hospital bed on hand at the house for awhile, she refused to use it, and remained adamant about staying in the recliner. Yesterday morning, it was determined it was time to move her into the bed. Although she had been un-responsive for the last couple of days, when it came time to get into that bed, she fought back, she was awake, mad and there was no mistaking any of her words lol, she didn't want to get into that bed, cause she knew if she did ... she wouldn't get out again ... and she came back and gave it one more shot and fought back hard. She knew. She got in that bed yesterday around lunchtime, and she died just after 10 last night.
She knew exactly what she wanted when the time came too, and left the details for her husband. She had gotten a present for him and each of the kids, and on Friday night they all had supper together and she gave them their gifts and had a final family dinner together. That was the last time she really ate. She slept most of the weekend, and then yesterday, the kids were called home from school. The doctor and priest were called to the house also. She wrote letters to all of them. To be opened after she died. She even wrote her own eulogy. She said "who better to talk about my life than me. I had a great life." She made sure everything was taken care of.
Speaking of 'taking care of' ... I have to say ... David, her husband was an amazing man through all of this. Literally taking care of her every physical and emotional need, and letting her know how much he loved her through it all. An amazing man.
This morning I went to work, took care of a few things that I wanted taken care of, then met with my PM for a few minutes, called my best friend and told her I was on my way, then left and hit the road for the 45-55 min drive, and spent a long day with lots of crying, lots of hugging, some laughing talking about various 'good' times, more crying, picking out funeral outfits, ... lots of coffee :-) long day. Got home around 8 tonight. Exhausted. Death is very draining.
I think one reason this is hitting hard and hitting home, is that although many of us have been through the death of our parents and/or grandparents ... this one is hitting the 'inner circle', this one's in MY group of friends.
My heart still hurts tonight. For Tracy, David, the kids, my best friend, Tracy's dad, who also lost his wife, Tracy's mom only two years ago to brain cancer, my best friend's parents, who loved her like a daughter .... for so many others who'll miss her. And for my dad too. Hearing Cass describe her last day with her sister in law, of her fighting this disease and losing, getting the weekly then daily reports, brought back alot of memories. Not happy ones.
It also hurts, cause I was originally going to go down this weekend and say good-bye to her, and I didn't. It was my son's birthday party weekend, my mom was visiting from out of town, so I called my best friend and told her since I was planning to come down next weekend anyway (there was a benefit scheduled for Tracy next Friday night), I would just wait and see her and say my good-bye next weekend. I kick myself now. I looked at the clock at 3pm on Sunday after mom left and thought "it's still early, I can still make it there and home before too late ....." but the boys had just left to walk the dog, I started cleaning out the truck, they ran into friends and started to play, I didn't really want to bring them to see her that way, wanted to do it the weekend I was alone, which was only a few days away ... right? ... and the next time I looked at the clock it was 5pm, and we didn't go. I regret that very much. I'm always preaching to the kids about 'making the right choice!' .... THAT was not the right choice :-(
One thing I'm happy about though (aside from the obvious that she is no longer in pain and suffering), is that I was on the phone last night with Cass when she got the call from her brother. Everything happens for a reason right? I had called my mom to fill her in on the latest news on Tracy, that it was expected to be hours to a day, then said I had to call Cass. Called her as soon as I hung up with mom, and we weren't on the phone 5 minutes when she got the call from David on the other line. Although I couldn't be 'there' at the time, I was there, and we had a good cry together, so I'm glad about that. I just wish my heart would stop feeling like it's being squeezed in a vice-grip right now. I don't like that feeling. Yes, I know it goes away, or at least diminishes considerably ... but I still don't like it.
Did I mention death sucks?
My condolences to all the family members who lost loved ones and friends in yesterday's senseless shooting.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007