I met her reputation before I ever met her.
She was a favorite amongst the staff- befriended by many and admired by more. On my first day at the organization I watched people struggle to keep their composure, her name whispered amongst colleagues with sad eyes. This was the day everyone heard the news.
D had cancer.
Her picture hangs above the copier in the communal mail room. I’d look at it amongst the checkerboard of other staff faces- her long blonde hair and big beaming smile- and wonder about her. We were close in age. It could have been me. Cancer is an unjust lottery that no one wants to win.
When I met her in person her smile was wry and weary, the punchline to her witty sarcasm. Over the last three years I got to know her. She was real and hilarious and had such a good soul. I loved her directness and her snark. She was a realist with a soft spot. She had an awesome sweater collection and we’d often exchange boasts of our bargain finds from Target. Both proud aunties, we’d compare cute nephew and niece tales. She would always say hello and ask how you were doing even when she was limping, or in pain, or puffy from the meds. Even when she’d just come from chemo before work. She was humble and generous and beautiful. She was a fighter and I admire how she never gave up.
A few months ago we talked in my cubicle about how her cancer had come back. I bought her a copy of my favorite book – Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening. He had survived cancer and we were all hoping she would. It was a small gesture that I hope brought her some comfort. I wanted to do more but what can anyone do when someone you care about is sick? But show up. Care. Reach out. Be real. Give love.
I arrived to work yesterday to the news: D had passed away on Sunday.
I’m so sad and angry and at a complete loss. So I sat down and wrote this post about her. Because she mattered to me. Because I’m really going to miss her.
Do me a favor, will you? Go tell someone you love: You matter to me. And mean it. Say what is in your heart now. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Life is too fucking short to live small.
Live big. Live brave. Live like my friend, D- with guts.
“I’ve learned that grief can be a slow ache that never seems to stop rising, yet as we grieve, those we love mysteriously become more and more a part of who we are. In this way, grief is yet another song the heart must sing to open the gate of all there is.
In truth there is a small one who suffers in each of us, an angel trying to grow wings in the dark, and as this angel learns how to sing, we lose the urge to hide. Indeed, when one heart speaks, all hearts fly. This is what it means to be great- to speak what feels unspeakable and have it release what waits in us all.” – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening