It's been a hard week. This whole life and death thing just brings me waaay down. Reminds me very much of my own mortality, makes this end we all reach at one time or another very real. And reminds me of my failure to keep in touch with people. A major failure, I might add.
This past week, I've had two people pass away who were very close to me. Two women, one young, one old. Both unique, and vital, and wonderful in their own ways.
Last Saturday, the wife of one of my best friends passed away. Jeri was only 51 when she finally succumbed to her illness. She didn't have an easy life, having been ill for most of it. And as she progressively got worse, her illness took its toll, not only on her, but on her husband, one of my best friends.
Jeri was so fortunate to have a husband like him. He never left her side, and he willingly put his life on hold for hers. He is the husband any woman would be lucky to have. I know that many people, men and women alike, would not have made the colossal commitment this man made to his wife. For better or worse weren't just words to him. He's the real deal. And I am honoured to know him.
Jeri certainly didn't ask for the life she was given, and it was obviously so very hard for her as she struggled through years of feeling worse and worse, slowly losing all independence and control of herself. It was so hard for her, and just as hard (if not, sometimes much harder) on her husband.Jeri's funeral takes place this Friday, and of course I'll be there. I hope she's now at peace.
I also found out early Tuesday that one of our oldest and dearest family friends passed away. I don't have many details of what happened yet, but I do know she was very ill for only a short while, although she suffered from dementia for the past few years.
This woman, her name was Mary, was like a mother to me when I was young. She was always there for me when no one else was. Our families grew up together, helped each other out whenever needed, and were more like family than friends.
When my mother left us, and my father worked all hours to make ends meet, and I was scared because I was young and at home alone, she would drop whatever she was doing and come over to keep me company. She would often come over for visits and she always had a little something for me, often sour cherry candies or melt-in-your-mouth chocolates. She always had a smile on her face, a joke to tell, and a hug. And I was always looking for hugs.
She came over to Canada with my father, and she and her husband (who passed away many years ago) were the closest of friends for many decades. Her home was my home.
I knew she had gone to a nursing home and no longer remembered anyone, including her very devoted daughter, who kept a daily vigil by her side, despite the fact that Mary rarely recognized her any longer.
And I kept making plans to go visit her, regardless of the fact that she wouldn't remember me. But I never did. And now it's too late.
Will I ever learn?
I justify my actions (or lack thereof) by saying that at least I visited Jeri one last time before her passing. However, she was already unconscious and unaware. I wish I hadn't waited so long. Always the old excuse, I'm too busy, I'll go tomorrow, I can't go today because the weather's terrible, or I'm so busy with the children...No reason really good enough.
I'm not a religious person, but I am spiritual, and although I don't claim to know what goes on after our hearts stop beating, I do believe we live on in some way. It may be just in the hearts and minds of those left behind, but I think there's more to it than that. There has to be. Doesn't there?
But what I do know is that what is most important is treating everyone we know and love, as well as the strangers we meet, with compassion, respect and love, and to remind them often that we haven't forgotten them, that we care, and that we're there for them if they ever need us, even if it's just to hold a hand and cry.
What's important is remembering not to be harsh with our words, to remember that everyone has feelings that can be hurt, and that showing someone we care costs nothing, and is priceless.
I hope I can now be a better person, a better friend, and I wish I could thank these two beautiful women for helping me remember.