This post honors my friend, LuAnn, who died late last night after 3 bouts of leukemia. She and I met with our preschoolers in tow, spent some play dates and summer afternoons together. We did 3 summers of bible studies; we didn't always see eye to eye, but learned from each other. The pull of boys in different sports and life led us apart. We saw each other at the library occasionally or out at the park. We always said we should find more time to see each other. Isn't that always the way it goes?
Our neighbor's daughter graduated. I heard out about her first foray into chemo in the sunny garage decorated with congratulations banners. There were wrapped mints on the table which she fingered with her beautiful long nails. I watched her sons a few times that summer, and got some groceries. I didn't know what else to do. She beat it into submission by what I believe was sheer will to be there for those boys. The next time I saw her, she was vibrant and her hair was back; she laughed that she was back to her old self-yelling when the toilet seat was left up, and that it felt great.
The second announcement came as a surprise. Already? Back? This time was harder, longer, and she almost died. From the 4th of July until November 14th she fought, cursed, cried, begged to go home, suffered and healed. She lost two fingers, lots of weight, her hair again, and precious time with her family. Her husband shouldered the hospital trips, doctor visits, two in school, juggled the laundry, loneliness, and the dishes. I visited her at the hospital only once. She was embarrassed that her hair was gone and she had to pee in a pan. We talked about what the school lunchroom where she worked was doing without her. We cried and I put a "beloved child of God" cross on her forehead. She said it was hard to believe it. Again, she got to come home.
She had been trach-ed, and tube fed for so long, but set a goal to eat steak on her birthday. January 25 came and her hubby made sirloin on the grill outside, even though it was minus 10. She enjoyed it immensely. January 29th I got an email that "it" was back, would I play at her funeral?
She felt she now had 2 very important, single minded jobs to do: make memories for the boys and prepare all three for the life ahead without her. She got their bedrooms painted, she cleaned out, cleaned up, and made out her last wishes. She had hoped to pull them out of school and go overnight to a waterpark, but it didn't happen. The last time I saw her she had a low dose chemo pack on. She said it felt like she was pregnant again. She was painting the second coat of bright blue in Son One's room. Tired but focused. Then in this last week's time, she went from ok, to hospitalized, to home, to gone.
Today I stared at her sheets of instructions for her "Life Celebration". Sometimes the life of a musician includes comfort in sorrow, peace, solace, and strength for the day. It's a privileged burden. But my heart hurts.
She told her sons that God takes some people home earlier than others. She told me that there were times in October when she heard the angels. I told her I could play and cry at the same time. And next Saturday, I will.