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My heart is moved by all I cannot save (Adrienne Rich)

My best friend died Monday night.

I thought I was doing OK, all through the learning of her dreadful diagnosis, the hospital stays, and the hospice care she received at home that her family graciously allowed Tony and I to participate in. Yes, I thought I was doing OK – sad, but not broken. Then last night it hit me, wave after wave after wave after wave after wave. How can I have lost a mother, a father, a brother, and a good friend and never known grief like this?

Her name was Jill, but secretly, in prayer, I called her “my Naomi,” a name from the Book of Ruth. Naomi was Ruth’s mother-in-law and Ruth was utterly devoted to her, would not leave her even when Naomi implored her to, and did all she could to make life easier for her.

Whither thou goest…

Jill was Stage 4 when she was diagnosed. She suffered a fall on the ice in January which left not even a trace of a bruise. But her hip became more and more painful and when she finally went for X-rays they revealed an undisplaced fracture and lesions suspected to be cancer. Further tests confirmed the diagnosis as well as tumours in her lungs and adrenals. But we stood strong.

“If I have anything to say about this,” I told her, “and I plan to have a lot to say about this, I promise you two things: one, you will not be in pain, and two, you will never be alone.”

She smiled and said, “Don’t make me cry.”

I deeply regret I failed in my first promise.

Her fall aggravated an old back injury and she described the pain as “white hot and searing” every time she tried to stand. They did a stabilization procedure which seemed to work at first. But the beast kept breaking through. They put her on sub-q pain meds every two hours, a regimen we kept up at home. When I gave her my first sub-q, I depressed the plunger extra slow since the serum is viscous and can burn. She told me I did very well and I mentioned next I was going to try to fix a rainy day. That made her laugh.

I was always making her laugh.

In the hospital, her poor roommate had to leave the room we were laughing so hard and making so much noise. And when she was back home, her family, friends, Tony and I made it our mission in life to distract her, entertain her, engage her as much as we could to push the pain to the back of her mind. And when that failed, we gave her the drugs.

But eventually that failed too, and she had to go back to the hospital where they gave her heavy duty pain killers that knocked her out. On Friday, her daughter called to tell us it looked as if the end was close, and if we wanted to say goodbye now was the time. In what was to be one of her last lucid moments I was able to lean in close to her ear and whisper how much I loved her. She died a few days later.

Too soon. Much too soon. Yes, she was eighty years old, but that’s not old, not today. There was so much more I wanted to tell her. Like how pathetically happy it made me when she finished the plate of creamed salmon Tony made for her. Not even a crumb for the dog! Like how it made me feel when she would spontaneously take my hand or rest her hand on my arm when we were at table together during coffee hour after church. Like how many times her gentle common sense saved me from panic and despair. Like how grateful I was to companion her through her suffering. And how sorry, how bloody sorry I was I could not save her.

We’ll bury her on Saturday, but she is already buried so deep in my heart she will be with me always.

Naomi, your Ruth misses you terribly.

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4 Comments

  1. Michelle Harris
    Posted July 8, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I am so very sorry for your loss and celebrate with you the deposits your Naomi made in your heart.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted July 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Michelle.

  2. Karen ROCKWELL
    Posted July 11, 2015 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dear Penny-Anne, Your Naomi was so very fortunate to have your dedicated friendship and your efforts to make good on your promises. I am hugging you in your huge losses! With love, Karen

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted July 12, 2015 at 12:10 am | Permalink

      Karen my dear, your words are so consoling. Thank you so much.

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