“I’m not ready to go. I don’t want to leave any of you yet. I have a lot I still want to do.”
As I sit here beside you, listening to you breathe, right now I am overwhelmed with emotion. The tears well up every few moments when I remember all the times we sat together just like this, but on your sofa in your little Bellevue bungalow- the steam from the tea rising like your dog Hope’s belly, with every deep relaxing breath- and also when the uneasy awareness rises, again, in me, that you are dying. There truly is not enough time for us, for any of us who love you so.
We’ve only been close a few years- you always say I was your first yoga teacher- but that’s not how I think of you. You’re really the sister that I always wanted but never knew I needed. You arrived right on time.
After you beat cancer a second time, we went to Ojai- somewhere we’d known about and planned to visit as soon as you were ready. Those chilly mornings, the warm daytime hikes, the amazing meals, and all the coffee will always be just a sensory-memory jolt away. And every time I go there I know that I’ll be back in our special place again.
Just a little over a year after our trip, you were well underway with your big plans to buy some land, set up shop, and hold space for retreats- always giving away that which had healed you. Things were in motion- your house on the market, properties toured and negotiations begun- but the plans hit roadblocks. Inspections revealed insurmountable challenges. Loans fell through. Closing dates came and went. Something, you knew, was not right with this plan.
Soon after, you began to realize things were also not right with your body. Having been through it before you knew the signs. Tests confirmed tumors in your stomach and later, your liver. Cancer, a third time, before today, your fortieth birthday.
Now, we sit here, like before, but burdened with the weight of knowing the road ahead has an ending. We always knew it, but now it’s certain. We celebrate your birthday with as much physical comfort as we can, with tea, with peach popsicles, with Harry Potter, with snuggles- all the things busy lives disrupt. You sleep, and then sit awake, talking with me and with your family.
I hold your hand, stroke your hair, tell you I love you. We whisper. There are tears. And more tears. You’re in terrible pain. You’re afraid to die and afraid to live too. I feel powerless. I know I can’t help you. And I’m afraid to lose you- afraid I will forget you, your smell, your voice, your words. Will time take those away?
Then I remember you have a blog- I go there again and read a few entries. In your last entry, from December of 2017, you’re giving testimony that clearly shows you get it- it’s about fearlessness, bravery, tenacity, staying the course- but it’s also about acceptance, about slowing down, about feeling and sensing the preciousness of each moment, letting everything move in its own time. We can’t do everything, and there are times we can’t do anything. You know this, now, in your mind, but your heart moves in and out of acceptance. So, tears, trembling, and confusion. For both of us. Two fortysomething women, hanging onto each other, lost in our grief for things that will never come, still searching for faith.
It may stay this way, even after you’re gone. Only time will tell.
Note: I wrote this on October 18, your birthday, just five days before you died. I cannot say time has changed anything. But I know more and more what you meant to me, and the way to honor your memory is becoming clearer and clearer- it’s in how I spend my days, how I use my time. More will be revealed- this I know. Until then I will keep missing you, your sisterhood, your friendship and your tender, sweet soul.