We said goodbye to a lifelong friend this weekend and I am reminded to never hesitate to live, love and laugh.
The universe works in wonderful ways, connecting people in seemingly coincidental ways.
In Grade 7 English class, I first became friends with Jenny because we randomly sat together in Mrs Piazza’s English class with one of her longtime friends since kindergarten and a friend I had recently met, having just moved to the area.
30 years later, the four of us found ourselves together in Jenny’s hospital room in palliative care saying our goodbyes in her final hours.
She spent the last two years bravely battling cancer. I did not write about it as I didn’t want her reading and being reminded about her pain.
When I think about recent challenges we’ve had with T at school – he’s been having wonderful days recently – I always pray for T to have the kind of friendships I have.
I’m so blessed with lasting friendships, especially this group of grade school friends.
Our group has grown from the initial four and I never take for granted how we’ve stayed in each other’s lives – through grade school, high school, first relationships and heartaches, going to different universities, entering adulthood, first jobs, marriage, children, roadtrips and camping, the death of parents and pets.
Growing up, my parents told me it’s important to have friends that are good influences – and I want that for T, especially as his disability will make him especially vulnerable during adolescence.
I’m so lucky our friends brought out the best in me and each other. We were the nerdy kids that cared about school, that pursued extra curricular activities like leading the school newspaper and yearbook, and we had mostly wholesome fun.
I spent most of Friday and Saturday with Jenny and a few friends – and those that could not be there called in or sent messages that we shared.
She was sleeping peacefully and the doctor let us know that hearing is the last thing to go during death and that she could still hear us.
We reassured her she was not alone and we reminisced. We were never the sentimental types – and she’d roll her eyes at that kind of talk – but we told her we loved her and that we’re happy she won’t be in pain.
We let her know that we will all see each other again one day and that we hope that she will have the home to herself she’s always wanted and the cats she never got to have.
At 6 last night, my friend and I noticed a change in her breathing and appearance, so we said our final goodbyes so her family could have privacy.
As we left the room, so her family could go in, I struggled to untie my hospital gown. I had tied the knot so tight.
I asked our friend to help and she struggled too. Jenny was gasping heavily and my friend and I burst out laughing through our tears.
I’m known as the clutz who inevitably does something avoidably stupid. I explained to her family this was one last “Stupid Ab.” moment for Jenny to enjoy.
When I got home last night, the hubby and T were out at the movies, and I opened a can of orange soda and bag of chips and looked at old photos I had not looked at in years.
Memories long forgotten but felt fresh as yesterday when I saw the photos: countless birthday parties, Halloween and horror movie nights, New Years Eve celebrations, Survivor finale viewing parties, holiday get togethers. Weddings and the arrival of kids. Little children now teenagers and their parents once preteens now in their 40s.
When I woke up this morning, I saw an email from her mother confirming she passed away shortly after 11 last night.
I’m still processing the news but if it’s anything the last year, a year of many losses, has taught me, is that life goes on all around us.
I just finished baking a strawberry vanilla cake for the hubby’s birthday and will take T swimming this afternoon – the waterslide at the community pool is back up.
Life goes on but you never forget the people in your lives and we reassured Jenny as we were leaving last night that we will never forget her – and that our kids will know her too.
Every birthday, she gave T a children’s book – and through her impeccable taste in literature, we discovered the wonderful British author Oliver Jeffers.
I told her T recently started to read the books out loud to me after years of them being read to him.
Jenny also had impeccable taste in music – loved UK acts – and in high school, she was obsessed with the broadway show, Rent – even organizing a get together for friends to catch the show in Grade 10 and gifting me the two CD album one Christmas.
Our friends were wondering what song to play while we hung out with her in her room as she slept and someone suggested Rent and I then suggested one of the best songs from the show, “No Day But Today.”
Listening to the song again, it really is an apt reminder that life is short and there is no day but today to live, love and laugh.
Photo at top: A birthday cake Jenny and another friend assembled for a joint birthday celebrated by our other friend and I in 2006.