I lost a dear friend last week. We met in 1980. We talked on the phone to each other every day for the past 10 years. When I began working and gave up my foster care license we talked a little less but that was ok. When I spoke with her two weeks ago it was as if no time had elapsed.
A heavy smoker, every year she got bronchitis and every year we had the same conversation
"This damn pollen is killing me.'
Nancy are you smoking while you're telling me this?
I could hear the click of the lighter. I love how you have friends who are closet smokers and you're talking to them on the phone and they think you can't hear the click of the lighter. Generally, i never say a word to them except Nancy was no closet smoker.
You shouldn't be smoking with that cough!
"Yes but I've cut way back. I've only had 2 cigarettes today. It's the damn pollen that's killing me."
Last week she didn't feel well and made a doctors appointment on Friday but canceled it and rescheduled it for Monday.
She died in bed Friday morning. For the first time in over 10 years I will no longer have my annual pollen conversation with Nancy. I'm at a loss.
Saying good bye has been an exhausting yet interesting process since I was raised in a family that did not believe in funerals, or viewings. I've carried on that tradition for 58 years. Until Nancy. I knew I needed to see her.
The last viewing I went to was 51 years ago when our crossing guard at school, Joe The Cop, died . I was 7 years old.
The last funeral I attended was years back when my friend Curly T's son died. I sat with Nancy at that funeral because Nancy knew Curly T as well
You see, Nancy knew and loved just about everyone.
A social worker from the hospital called me after last nights viewing to tell me about it. She was surprised when I told her I was there and we were both surprised to discover we were there at the same time. The funeral home was packed with Nancy's friends. So packed I never did find her husband. I was glad I had stopped by the house earlier in the day to visit with him.
Nancy would have been tickled pink with the large turnout. She always did love a good funeral. Wedding. Banquet. Christmas Party. Moms night out. She loved people and a good party irregardless of the occasion.
I had no intentions of bringing The Boy to the viewing. Partly because of how I was raised and partly because my children have suffered enough trauma in their lives. When he asked to go I was undecided until I asked him exactly why he wanted to go.
"I'm afraid I'm going to forget her." he answered. He remembers swimming in her pool. He remembers her visiting him in the hospital. He remembers climbing the steep steps to her front door.
"I'm afraid I'm going to forget what she looks like."
I coached him on funeral home etiquette and reminded him that we are comprised of body, soul and spirit which was something he already knew to be true. I told him her body would be in a casket but it was like a seashell on the beach. It was beautiful but empty because what once lived within the shell was gone.
"I know." he said matter of factly. "Her spirit is in heaven."
He held it together better than I did as we said our goodbyes at the viewing. I held it together better afterwords while The Boy melted down at home.
I hate that life is so complicated and busy that we don't act on our inklings. On Tuesday I realized I hadn't talked to Nancy in a while and thought, I need to call her. Life happened and I never did get to it.
And now I'll never be able to again.
I'll miss telling her my stories and listening to hers.
Between clients today I zipped into my Publix potty stop in the midst of a pee pee emergency and practically knocked over a blind man who was slowly tap, tap, tapping his cane down the hall way. As I'm bolting to the restroom door I'm wondering why this man is in my way. Dang! I'm about to pee my pants!
And then I realized I was running into the Men's bathroom.
I spun around almost knocking the man down again and took off running to the Ladies bathroom in the opposite direction.
"Even I could see that was the Men's Room." yells the blind man over his shoulder.
I would have shared that story with Nancy who would have laughed and laughed until she coughed.
She always loved a good story.