A friend of mine died last night, a woman I have known since I was a teenager. She died at the age of 87, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for close to 30 years, but up until about a year and a half ago still strong in spirit and even in physical strength more than one would expect. Her death has left me sad in a way that I cannot wholly define, bringing up so many reminders of how important her presence in my life was at one time, the impact it left on me.
I met her when I was 16. She was the mother of the guy I was dating, and was not so happy about the fact that we were dating and didn’t hesitate to hide it.
Eventually she warmed to me, and we got along pretty well. I dated her son for many years and became like part of the family. I remember having to attend a business party when I was 20 years old and couldn’t find something to wear. She told me to go look in her closet and pick something out. I had always loved her sense of style and fashion and couldn’t believe she was being so generous. Lucky for me we wore the same size. I borrowed a beautiful suit and blouse, which I can still picture today. A few years later my relationship with her son ended, and I didn’t see her again for about 10 years, at which point she told me she wished her son had married me. I laughed to myself thinking you just never know how some things will turn out, here is the woman who could barely look at me years ago and now she was saying she wished her son had married me.
We reconnected five years ago when her son came back to her home to live with her, right in my neighborhood. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer and I was helping him out every day. It was during this time we got to know each other again. We would sit in the afternoon on her deck and talk about the days when I dated her son, she spoke openly about how she treated me then, and how it pleased her that now we could sit together as friends. She shared some of her own struggles throughout her life, the difficulties in her marriage, with her son who was now sick. I was there with her when her son died in her home. A moment that will be forever ingrained in my memory. I was so afraid to to have to tell her, but when I did she said right away she wanted to see him. She looked at him and asked if I was sure he was gone. We had had many close calls during his time on hospice. I said I was sure, so she took his hand, said a prayer, and quietly left the room. Stoic and strong as always, not one to shed tears in public. Her strength palpable. Giving us all strength at that time.
This loss will not affect me on a daily basis, as she was not a part of it for many years now. But it has affected me on a much deeper level, bringing up and bringing back to me the memories of the impact she had on my life, that remain with me to this day as part of me and the person I became as an adult. I mourn the loss for the days I did spend with her every day of the week, helping her caregiver in her home. It points out the passage of time, another loss, though I remember the girl age 16 so vividly, the truth is 40 years have passed since then. Her death a stark reminder.
May she rest in peace.