Friday, February 5, 2016

Some Orange Juice

My friend died last month.

I still can't say it, think it, or play our song without a huge lump in my throat forming immediately and my eyes stinging with hot tears. I wrote about her once before here. I can't say much more than was already said in that post, other than to expound on how deeply unfair I think it is she was denied a long and healthy life. But then again life's not fair, hers especially.

As a black woman who lived through the civil rights era she was treated unfairly for simply being born into her skin. Those racial injustices perhaps dissipated with time, but never truly went away for good, as anyone who is even slightly paying attention to the news knows we are not living in a post racial society. Then her own body began to betray her at 35. 35. Where is the justice in that? She would spend the next 28 years of her life fighting ever-worsening heart disease; denied the ability to have children, drink alcohol or even eat some of her favorite foods because of dangerous interactions with her numerous medications.

She knew it was unfair and yet she never complained. She was relentlessly positive, never allowing herself to become mired in petty troubles so many others would let fester until they turned cancerous.  She emanated exuberance. She was excited to grow old. Every time she noticed a new patch of grey hair, she would proudly show it off to me, telling me her plan to rock a fully silvered-mane one day. She good-naturedly delighted in the thought that one day I would grow old too, and she couldn't wait to watch.

And then she died. She died before she had the chance to enjoy her retirement. She died before her hair turned totally gray and before I could marry and have kids of my own that she made me promise I'd bring to visit her. And I am heartbroken.

If she were able to, she'd comfort me through her own death. She was just that selfless. She'd hug me, somehow making her five-foot-nothing frame feel huge, and envelop my sorrow. At her funeral they told me her passing was for the best because she's not suffering anymore. How unfair is that? Her troubles were so great only death was enough to handle her pain. But she wouldn't want me to be incensed on her behalf, so I won't say another word on how unjust I feel her life was. Because it was a good life, well lived, and well loved.

One of her nephews stated in her eulogy, "when life handed her lemons, she didn't make lemonade, she somehow turned it into orange juice and left everyone wondering how she did it." The other day, I think discovered one of her lastest alchemical miracles. I had just taken a shower and was combing my hair in the bathroom mirror when I saw it. A wiry, white-gray hair sticking out above the rest. Part of me knows I'm close to that age when this is not uncommon. But the other part of me thinks she had something to do with it. Her last little message to me. A hug from where she is now. And it will stay with me, grow, and happily multiply for the rest of my life.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

All Dogs Go to Heaven

This morning, like most mornings, I logged onto Facebook. This morning, like most mornings, Facebook showed me a post from my past and suggested I share the memory. This morning, unlike most mornings, it was a painful memory. The picture was one of my childhood dog, Aggie, running on the beach. I had shared the picture five years ago, the day Aggie passed away.

I was sad and angry at Facebook. "Thanks for reminding me about how heartbroken I was five years ago." I X'd out of Facebook and went about my morning business. Checking emails. Small talking with coworkers, wishing I had more coffee. The usual smattering of office clich├ęs.

A few minutes later I turned around to look out the window behind me.  A sneeze was stuck tingling in my nose and natural light usually helps things along. Before turning back to my computer something caught my eye. A man and his dog were walking through the parking lot. This made me double take because, well it's an office parking lot. There's no residential homes nearby, no field beyond for animals to romp in. Concrete surrounded by concrete and other businesses. No reason for a person to bring a dog to this location. But something about the dog caught my eye too.  The white coat, floppy ears, and tail with long curtain of fur. The unmistakable silhouette of an English Setter. Aggie was an English Setter.

In the world of pets, they aren't terribly common to see, and here was one practically parading through my parking lot. I sprang out of my seat and urged the elevator not to stop on the trip four floors down, walking outside just in time to see the pair rounding the corner. For a split second, I hesitated to chase them down. But in a life full of opportunities missed and to-be-missed by hesitation, I decided now wasn't the time to give into that temptation.

"Hi! Can I pet your dog?" I asked awkwardly.
"Yep, this is Milo. He's an English Setter."
"I know" I said, reaching out to pet the familiar silky coat, "I used to have one as a kid."

So I will share this fuzzy memory, not in the way Facebook intended, but shared and remembered and loved, nonetheless.