The Real Thing

My friend Heather died last week. There. I wrote it and now it’s out there. It’s extraordinarily sad and it totally sucks. She left behind a loving husband, two young children and friends and family that are in worlds of sadness and pain. Heather was one of those people that the more you got to know her, the more you liked her. She was scary smart, but also modest and really patient. She died after a year long and hard fought battle with pancreatic cancer. When traumatic things happen, I find that I can resort to the facts. I can tell a story that I can stand behind. I’ve created a script or something that I can share with a neighbor when I bump into them at Stop and Shop. For me, it allows me to stay in a safe zone where I won’t break down crying in the parking lot in front of my kids. It allows me to keep functioning throughout my day.

Last week I went to visit a friend, that I can see a lot of myself in, at Mass General Hospital. She was full of cancer and when I saw her I was quickly reminded of what my grandmother looked like when she died of cancer over 25 years ago. I felt heartbroken when I talked to Heather’s husband knowing that at some point he would be a widow and left taking care of 2 children that are the same ages of two of my own. What would my life be like if my husband died? I walked out of the hospital planning out my return trip and wondering how much more suffering Heather could bear. I went to the beach that night with my family, feeling extraordinarily grateful but also guilty- I wish Heather and her family could also enjoy this beautiful summer night at the beach. Why her? I received a text from a mutual friend the following morning. Heather died in her sleep. My whole body sobbed. Thank you God that I had a chance to see her before she left this earth. Memories of our time together came flooding in. I could hear her laugh in my mind- she had the best laugh ever! How could she not be here any more? How could she not be a text message away?

I’m sad. I’m numb. When I talk about my friend dying last week, I may cry. But know that if I do, you’ll be hearing my truth and the real thing.