One year ago tomorrow (April 22). My friend R passed away suddenly. I am kind of sketchy on the details, but she was on vacation with her parents, and she was either on a cruise (and off the ship in one of the cruise ship tourist towns in Gulf Coastal Mexico) or she was in Fort Myers, FL. At any rate, she had gone into a gift shop, while her parents waited outside. They waited outside the gift shop for awhile, and then H (R's mom) decided to go in and find out what was taking so long. R had collapsed on the floor, and someone was trying to revive her when H went in. R had a brain aneurysm which had ruptured, and it is likely she was dead before she even hit the floor.
I met R probably about a year after I had completed my radiation treatments for Hodgkins Lymphoma. We met in the kitchen at Camp Vermilion which was the setting for a recovery retreat up in the iron range of northern Minnesota. She was new in recovery and appeared very overwhelmed by a few of the Type A personalities barking orders in the kitchen. We had an almost instant connection. There was definitely a kinship bond between us which seemed to predate both of us.
For whatever reason, as deeply as I loved (and still love) R, our friendship has not always traveled a smooth road. Rough, rocky, and intense are probably apt descriptors for our relationship. There was a fragility about R, and an a certain amount of unpredictability about what was going to trigger the fragility. From R, I learned much about tact, diplomacy, and gentleness in confrontation. I am very much a bull in a china shop, and R's fragile nature taught me how to be more gentle and thoughtful. I am actually amazed she was willing to be friends with me because I am not a very gentle person (even today I have more than my share of rough edges).
Even though she was fragile (and due to stuff from her past) a very broken person, there was a depth and a beauty to her spirit that I always admired and found myself very envious of. Here I was, a hardened biker bitch, and R was this very feminine (but not ruffly), very artistic, creatively gifted woman. I still wonder to this day what it was that attracted her to me, because I am very logical, linear, and mathematical, and outwardly not really warm and cuddly.
I, too, am a very broken and flawed person. I keep all of that very well hidden. Truth be told, sometimes I am afraid to start crying, because I fear I will never stop. Don't get me wrong. I do cry, I just don't allow myself to cry for very long. She was so fearless about accessing the sadness and grief of her life, feelings I really have difficulty allowing myself to really and truly experience. I envied her ability to let herself feel those feelings.
Her artistic ability and creativity were qualities that I loved. I can barely draw stick figures, and she was able to draw, paint, use pastels, and other media to create beautiful works of art. The only thing I can do is sing, and once I am done singing, there is nothing tangible left, but when she painted, her paintings remain, even long after she is gone. I long to be able to create like she did.
Her loyalty to her family, even though they did not deserve her loyalty, showed an inner strength that was profound, and belied how delicate she was inside. As much as they hurt her, she loved them without condition, and would move heaven and earth to be there for them when they needed her. Maybe now they realize what a treasure she was.
I know why she was put into my life. I needed (and still do need) to learn how to be gentle, how to appreciate beauty. As emotional and painful as our relationship was, I miss her. Not a day goes by that I do not think of her and wonder about what things would have been like if I had just swallowed my pride and reached out just one more time. I wish I could figure out why she was taken from my life. Not sure I will ever really know the answer to that.
April 8, 1960-April 22, 2009
Loved and Sorely Missed