As my friend lies dying, 3,000 miles away, I try my hardest to keep living. I am happy and healthy, but so was she…until cancer embedded itself in her brain 16 months ago and has slowly pulled the life from her.
We spoke almost daily during her long fight, first with encouraging hope, me to her, she to me. She had a steel fortitude. There was no chance, no mention ever, that this invasion might end her life, especially at a time when it all begins again…new possibilities, new energy, new beginnings. Her youngest daughter, soon to be a college freshman; one graduating college; one in grad school. Plans for the future were taking shape, and reliving her one college summer in Santa Barbara was high up on her list of priorities. The carefree beach days of her youth.
We talked constantly, even when chemo zapped every ounce of her strength, and other toxic infusions caused her blood pressure to rise and her kidneys to be troubled. Her favorite lines, “It is what it is,” and “I’m trying my hardest,” seemed to calm both of our nerves. On her good days, we talked about our teenage daughters, best friends since they were babies. We compared notes, across the country…she advised me, I advised her. We talked about the future, when she was well, and we would see each other more often, always somewhere near a beach.
I visited her several times during the past year, and each time, although she looked thin and had less hair, she was still the same Sandy.
But now, the cancer has blocked her punches and will take no more of her fight. It has moved quietly and undeterred through her brain, taking her slowly away. She knows this, and can’t do anything anymore.
I visited her one last time this summer, and left with the words, “I will see you again soon.” I knew this was a lie, as the distance and life’s commitments would prevent me from traveling to see her again. And yet, I lied…more to myself, I believe, then to her.
And now, the end is nearing, and each day takes a little more of her. Everyone waits, including her. Recently, her husband carried her from her wheelchair to sit on the beach, watch the waves and feel the sand for the last time.
The beach…her favorite place on earth.
Sandy lost her battle against a raging Glioblastoma on February 12, 2012. Two weeks ago her youngest daughter spent 10 days visiting us and brought two small vials filled with Sandy’s ashes. We were to let them go as a Pacific Ocean breeze carried them away. As she and I approached the ocean’s edge, something pink caught our eyes….three rose petals lying in the wet sand. We counted to three together and let the ashes go, both in awe that they did not simply dissipate as we expected, but actually seemed to form a shape even for a few seconds. My daughter stood behind and took pictures of our final goodbye. When we all looked a few moments later, the image we saw took our breath away. A backwards “S” appeared quite clearly in the ash and we all knew that Sandy was with us at the Malibu coast that day.