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  • Betty Girardeau

Loss


My apologies for interrupting my musings about the holiday season. But yesterday I learned of the loss of a dear neighbor and friend. Her passing was no surprise. Several months ago she learned that her doctors no longer could provide her with more tools to fight the cancer which she had been fighting for several years. She called me shortly after getting this diagnoses and told me she was all right. She was good. We had developed a bond in recent years because I love to cook and often have meals to share, and she, though loving good food, was less inclined to cook for herself, especially during the time that she was under various treatments for her cancer. She always was delighted with my offerings, usually calling me in less than twenty-four hours to tell me how wonderful the meal was. Whenever I took meals up to her she asked if I could stay and visit, and I usually did. Initially she needed to talk about how she was feeling physically and other things relating to her health and health care. But after her final diagnoses those conversations were replaced with ones about family, marriage, things that we loved and made us happy, and, yes, plans for the future. And those last mentioned conversations were not necessarily what you would think. Hospice care had been able to give her remdesivir, which, in her case, turned her into a happy "energizer bunny." She started cleaning closets and finding things long stored away that gave her joy and happy memories. One evening she wanted to share a picture that her late husband had taken of her early in their relationship. And when I saw it, I was amazed and said that she looked just like Rita Hayworth. She was a really "hot" looking young woman. She laughed in embarrassment. One afternoon I spent with her trying to work through a credit card charge that she was getting though it was for a service she did not have, and which, I also discovered was an unauthorized one. I took my computer up to her house because it was easier for me to work on that than her iPad. We didn't resolve the problem that afternoon, be we shared a wonderful afternoon working together on a project after which she said, "Don't you think it's time for some wine?" It was a bit early for me, but I said, "Sure," and we relaxed over wine chatting about all kinds of fun things. Over the next weeks I made sure that when I brought her new meals I would come at "wine time" because that was special for her. On Tuesday last week she called and said she had made the cranberry congealed salad from her mother's recipe that she had told me about and wanted me to try it, but to come up to do so when I had time. Little did I know that the cancer that had been creeping up on her for months would decide it was time to take over. By the time I could come to try out that salad she was decidedly in decline. One of her sons had already arrived to be there with her. We two chatted, but I kept my eye on my dear friend and, like the person she was, she encouraged that conversation, just watching us and listening. But I noticed she was starting to shiver, and asked if she wanted a blanket. We got her two. Saying that I thought I should probably go and let her rest, she said, "Don't forget to help yourself to that salad. I really want you to have some." I could say that that salad was her last gift to me. She passed on yesterday. But the salad was definitely not her last gift me. I learned so much about how some people can show such grace, and even resiliency, when they know they are dying. She made her impending death never about her, but about others and how she would leave things for them. I talked to one of her sons tonight and he was telling me how they always knew she was so special, but going through the house yesterday and repeatedly finding notes that she had written to them and left on things saying, "I won't need this anymore," or "You can get rid of this" had given them reasons to laugh and love her and her memory all the more. We have all lost this very special lady. But she has left me and others with a legacy, one that I will not forget. I am glad she is now in a better place. But I will miss her and our times together.

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