I was working late at a new job in the early 90s on a project that had to be done by morning. By 9 pm I thought I was alone when a co-worker I barely knew bounded into the library. “Do you need any help?” She stayed with me through the wee hours of the morning until we got the job done. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
We both left that firm and, over the next 25-plus years, we stayed in touch, sometimes seeing each other more and sometimes less. I knew that M was battling cancer and visited her in the hospital. I knew she was in remission and we got together.
We were supposed to see each other on October 28 and I got a text from M saying she had gotten some bad news news from her doctor and had to take a raincheck. I called and we spoke for a few minutes. I told her I would call again soon. I didn’t and she passed away on November 14 at the age of 49.
I have no great excuse why I didn’t call again. Work was busy. Life was busy.
I have beaten myself up sufficiently. And I am determined to learn from this experience. The day after the funeral, I reached out to a childhood friend whose birthday I had missed.
With M, I was jolted with sudden death. We think we have so much time. The truth is, we don’t.
With J, who has Alzheimer’s disease, the loss is piece by piece. Fortunately, I think she is beyond perceiving what the disease already has robbed her of and what is to come. That’s not true for me and our children, who have to cope with J not coming home for Thanksgiving for the first time. She moved to a continuing care retirement community in May, and her doctor thinks it could confuse and upset her if we brought her home for the holiday. Instead, we are going to bring dessert to her and will see how that goes.
All of this is to say that life is short and we don’t know what’s around the bend. So gather your loved ones around you tomorrow, and give thanks. Send messages of love to those who aren’t at the table, whether prevented by death or disease or distance.