I've been dreading this post for a while. I've been experiencing some things over the past couple of months that have really given me pause. There are times I've been in my car and a sad song came on and I've just started sobbing. I've been fortunate enough to avoid the reality of mortality for the majority of my life. The last funeral I went to was for Meezy's grandfather, almost four years ago, and I didn't know him well. Before that, it was my Opa's funeral, nine years ago this month. Obviously that experience was hard, but it was so long ago, so I've forgotten what it was like. Apart from those two events, I've been able to live in this suspended reality, where bad things don't happen to the people I love and I don't have to face death.
Over the past few years, the mothers of two of my best friends (who were bridesmaids in my wedding) were diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a scary and painful time, but they both eventually beat it. I started participating in Komen events and wearing their names on my back when I ran, to honor their successful fight. At those races, I would see thousands of people with the names of their loved ones on their backs, who weren't so fortunate. It wasn't me though; it wasn't anyone I knew. Everyone I knew won their battle. Breast cancer wasn't so scary, because the people I knew were batting a thousand against it.
Then came Dianne's diagnosis last year. It was Stage IV and had spread to other organs. This was the mother to 3 of my life-long friends, and a great friend to my parents for many, many years. And her outlook was bleak. She fought back with radiation and chemo, but they were no match for the lesions in her brain. She eventually succumb to the disease's effects on September 11, 2010, after a 10-month fight.
Throughout the majority of the time after her diagnosis, I still lived in a fantasy land. I still held out hope that the treatments were working. I just kept thinking that it shouldn't be happening to her and her family, therefore it wouldn't. She would be cured, just like my friends' moms. The possibility that Dianne might actually die from this first sunk in when I received a phone call from my sister Jo after one of my softball games in August. She informed me that the treatments weren't working, and they would probably just look to making her pain-free for the time she had left. I hung up the phone and lost it. This wasn't really happening, was it? In September, when Dianne lost consciousness and started seizing at home, I couldn't hold my shit together. It was only a matter of hours before she eventually passed. Just a day after that was when my mom and I had planned on staying with Dianne for a few hours so the rest of the family could go to church. I couldn't grasp that. It was like, on Friday, I will see her in two days. On Saturday, no, not anymore. She's gone. Those three girls had lost their mom and Hank had lost his partner. How do I reconcile that?
This isn't a "woe is me" post. I'm not trying to garner sympathy or take away from the suffering her family members must be going through. I didn't lose my mom. I didn't lose my life partner. I'm just trying to come to terms with why things like this happen, and how the universe decides whose number is up. There's a part of me that cries because I'm sad for the family. There's a part of me that cries because I feel almost guilty that I still have my mom around and they don't. There's a part of me that cries because life is too short. There's a part of me that cries because cancer is so indiscriminate. There's a part of me that cries because I'm scared.
The memorial service today was beautiful. It truly was a celebration of the wonderful life Dianne led, and the amazing legacy she leaves behind. I cried a lot, but as my sister Jo told me, that's okay. It's okay to be sad. On the way to the service, I looked at the pictures my sister Jill had sent me, of her latest sonogram. She found out today that her newest addition will be a girl. The irony wasn't lost on me that in the same day I was celebrating life, I was also commiserating death. As much as I wanted to curl up and avoid the cruel world after Dianne's passing, Jill's pregnancy reminded me that I can't. I can't celebrate and appreciate life, without acknowledging its finiteness. I can't remove myself from future experiences because I'm too scared something bad will happen. If I do, I'll end up missing out on the good things. Rest in peace, Dianne. I'll be proud to wear your name on my back at the next Komen race.