In memory of a friend, saving grace

Posted on July 2, 2010


This song has been playing through my head for the last couple of weeks.  Why? Perhaps because it was right about this time several years ago I was sitting on my patio lost in thought.  The thoughts were focused on a friend who was battling cancer. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate this damn disease.  I remember staring at the trees, the squirrels at my feet eating, butterflies in the air, music playing, shadows stirring as the sun set, and wondering why cancer had to hit this wonderful soul.  Feeling helpless, and to be honest, selfishly wondering what I would do without my dear friend.

Today, lunch with a close tennis buddy fighting this disease, tweets from a twitter friend  in the midst of this greatest life competition made me realize I need to write the post chattering in my mind, and one, well, I really wanted to ignore.   The battles of cancer, what we try to leave behind when we realize we are at the point of crossing to another sphere.

My friend Judy, who I talked about in a previous post, battled a very nasty and deadly form of cancer.  She handled the battle with grace and such a positive spirit that I never dreamed was possible in us humans.  I would drive her to and from her treatments and be simply in awe with her spirit and will.

Judy and I were so very different in so many ways.  The fact that we bonded and became the dearest of friends is truly part of God’s miracles.  Judy was a very devoted church going girl…well, I say girl, but she was my mom’s age.  Judy never uttered a curse word at all, um, Deb, yes, a few here and there.  Well, okay, often.  Everytime I uttered one of the four letter words, she would cringe for a second and then the next thing she would do is say “Deborah” in a tone that for some reason only mothers can do with a way that makes you pause.

Our political views were opposite and she was always, god love her, trying to convert me.  She was girlie, me not so much.  She was a skirt suit girl, me jeans and flip flops.  She liked classical music, me R&B.  But what we did share?  A love of sports, all sports, any sport.  Judy was my co-owner of my firm fantasy football team.  We were the only women invited to play with the boys.  And play, well, we did.  First year, finished last.  The next 3?  Well, playoffs….this woman was more knowledgeable than me in football statistics, and frankly, it pissed me off.  I would spend endless hours studying NFL stats (because I’m a tad competitive) and she still knew more than me.

I spent 3 wonderful, sad months taking care of my little friend as she fought this disease.  They were truly 3 of the most wonderful months of my life, and the most emotional.  I watched little Judy slowly deteriorate, but never in the spirit or the soul.  She spent those 3 months with me as her project.  The goal….get me to church.  This sweet soul volunteered every Wednesday to put the church pamplets/brochures…forgive my ignorance…um, paper stuff you get when you show up for a church service.  So, when she began getting the chemo/radiation and simply was losing energy as every cell in her body was fighting the disease, I volunteered to drive her to this huge church and help.  And let me repeat.  Huge church.

We arrive at the church with me driving as the doctors at this point won’t let her drive as she is having mini-seizures.  I follow her into the room where there is a variety of paper material stacks.  Ms. Judy proceeds to spend 30 minutes giving me detailed instructions on the particular order at which these paper materials should be placed.  She then gives me the pilot program of putting them together appropriately, and even grades my efforts.  At this point, I’m wondering in my head, why I volunteered to be a part of this process.

Slowly we put all of the papers in the “Judy proper” order and fill the boxes that we will carry to distribute to every chair in this huge church.  There are two levels of seating at this church.  One, the lower level, which for my exhausted friend is the easier of the two.  I tell Judy, “I’ll take the upper level” to which I hear her bickering with me, but choose to ignore.  I grab my boxes of church materials and head to the upper level of pews.  As I take the second step in my birkenstocks, I trip and suddenly the boxes go flying as I try to catch myself.  Meanwhile, Ms. Judy is quietly putting the materials on the lower pews.  As I fall headfirst to meet the concrete step and watch the materials begin their journey out of their boxes, I utter the fword…which, let’s just say in an empty church, tends to echo.  I crash into the concrete steps and turn to gaze down at Judy’s stiff body and see the “I’m disappointed in you motherly stare.”

“Deborah,” she utters in a quiet, calculated tone.

I pick myself up and attempt to put the paper materials back into the order that I was trained to do.  We drive home several hours later and she’s silent on the drive for most of the way.  Then she says one thing to me.  “You need to go to church Deb.” I’ll be honest, I don’t go to church often, but if I find myself in a church?  Well, all I can think of is my little friend.

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