Monday, December 21, 2015
It's only appropriate we meet here, the place that brought us together for the first time. Travel with me if you wish while I share my friend with you. She's a great person. She'd be okay with this.
In the days, weeks and months following the death of the most important human being in my life I struggled. I struggled with sadness. I struggled with anger. I struggled with guilt. I lived with a constant dull ache in my chest. But I lived. I kept on living. It's what the majority of us do. But what I struggled most with was the one question I would never have an answer to. A question that could be asked in so many ways. What was going through my dad's head upon his diagnosis? How was he really feeling? Was his brave face all just for us? Was it a façade? Was he scared? My dad was our super hero. He wasn't afraid of anything. Was he?
And then I met Carolyn. Sweet Carolyn. Someone sent her to me at just the right time. (She says I helped her too, but I really do feel our relationship was one sided.) Crossing paths was a fluke. A blip. You see Carolyn was living with Metastatic Breast Cancer in Alberta (far from my world in Ontario). There is no cure for MBC. She knew she was dying and it was just a matter of time before she would kill that cancer that was killing her. Because, when she dies, the cancer dies. No one wins in this war. And all the while Carolyn was bravely sharing her story through her blog Art of Breast Cancer. And the blogging world is where she and I became friends.
I soaked up her words as quickly as she posted them. I found comfort in her thoughts and feelings. They were raw, and hard to read, and real, and, and...exactly what I needed. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and I reached out to her (which isn't exactly easy for someone like me - I'm a caregiver, not taker). I sought help from a woman I didn't know. A woman who had no idea I had been searching for her. A woman I had no idea I was searching for. And she virtually embraced me (because she's awesome). She answered my questions, she humoured me, she helped me get past this stumbling block I'd been falling over since my dad died. She shed some light on what his mental state was probably like. She gave me peace of mind. She gave me some closure.
But Carolyn was so much more than just this awesome component. While cancer tried to destroy her body, her will power, her energy, her strength; she kept on living. And she lived. In just the short time I knew her she worked on her memoirs for her three sons, she created art (she was a stunning photographer), she wrote, she was an advocate for MBC education, she was anti pink, she cared for her mother who lives with Alzheimer's Disease, she researched her illness, she beat odds, she watched her son get married, she rekindled a lost relationship with someone who was so important to her, she became a grandmother...TWICE! She remained a systir, mother, daughter, grandmother, aunt, cousin, blogger, and friend. She had the best sense of humour and was no stranger to busting out jokes at Cancer's expense. And this woman's use of the word "fuck" was like art itself. I'm sure it's what endeared her to me in the first place. Carolyn was beautiful. Like for reals, stunningly beautiful.
I know after a person dies they become untouchable; placed up on a pedestal and made out to be all saint-like. And there is no doubt in my mind someone somewhere has a terrible story or memory of Carolyn. I mean c'mon she lived almost 5 decades she was bound to mess up at least once. But she genuinely was such a lovely person. So wonderful that it escapes me more often than not that I didn't actually meet her in person - in real life, if you will. Our relationship was born and lived through the world wide web. Just typing that out makes it sound 'not real' like it's a fake friendship, but she means so much to me. She has had such an impact on me. She's helped shape me into the new me - the me after my dad died. The me who know longer has a dad to call upon. That's who I am now, and she played a strong part in that healthy transition. But we got beyond just talking about that stuff. We talked about everyday stuff. Our friendship changed. I celebrated all her milestones with her. I laughed at the craziness that was her awesome life. I encouraged her when she was feeling down. I felt pride for her when she continued to conquer. She became one of the strongest women I have ever met. I am in awe of her. So when she went into hospice I made sure I had no regrets and I told her all of that.
I told her I valued our unique friendship, and how much I appreciated her taking the time to talk to this virtual girl from Ontario about grief. I told her that her sense of humour was contagious and breathtaking. She was a breath of fresh air. I told her how proud I was of her and that she was someone to look up to and admire. But what I didn't tell her was how much I was going to miss her.
The death of my father, in a round about way, brought me to Carolyn. She died on what would have been my father's 66th birthday. Fuck irony. Carolyn's sense of humour would have found a laugh in that.
So to quote Carolyn's last words to me:
"Dear beautiful woman, you were and will remain my special friend. I love you Carolyn."