Many thoughts in my mind. I met her when she was a few months old. A cute baby and holdable. Her family lived a few hours away, so months, and sometimes years, would pass before we saw each other. She loved her mama and eventually her little brother, but I always thought of her as a daddy’s girl. Not with the, sometimes, negative connotation, she just loved him and loved to do the things he enjoyed. Fishing at a young age-I can imagine her in overalls and little boots asking dad to bait the hook, or more likely shouting with glee, “Look daddy, I baited my own hook this time.” Probably hunting as young as allowed, in her camo and pink (not orange) safety vest. Because, despite being perfectly at home in the woods or river, she was never a tomboy, always a girly girl in a good way. The whole family developed a love for NASCAR and went to races and watched them on TV. On our visits, she was such a little hostess, offering sodas and snacks, serving them with grown-up aplomb.
Back to reality. We order drinks and discuss old and new happenings, the good and bad of our lives. We turn in our songs and enjoy ourselves as we await our turns at the mic and clap and cheer for each performer. I think back to when we discovered KARAOKE! She took some persuading, but finally got up to the mic and lost her karaoke virginity. I remember, “guys do it, all the time”, and “I really hate her” and so many more. She was so animated but not stagey or showy. Just joyous and happy, the love of music shining in her eyes. We hosted a couple karaoke Halloween parties over the years. Once she came as a hunter in full camo and once a princess in royal dress. We may have only gotten together 2-3 times a year, but we always found karaoke and shared our lives in that context.
Time passed with a quickness, and we attended her high school graduation party. Always fun, laughing, funny and just so appealing. I’m sure she had boyfriends I never knew and so many good and bad experiences gone through. Wish I could’ve known some and been able to laugh and cry with her. She went to university, and we saw even less of each other. Another graduation and party and a good job with a state government official while bar tending at a local. So versatile, fitting in with her job and the bar patrons and treated with respect at both venues. She had an IMPORTANT boyfriend by that time and would share a few of the usual problems inherent in a relationship. Suggestions and a little advice, but we all have to live our own lives, and who among us has perfected love?
She’s on stage singing strong and empowering (though probably vindictively evil and fun) lyrics! “I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive,” accompanied by shouts of WOO-HOO mostly in women’s voices. Don’t we all wish we had the guts for that at some point in our lives? We’re all feeling good and happy to be together and healthy and alive.
There’s a lull and I do have a wandering mind tonight: Eventually the boyfriend became the fiancée, and the wedding invitations were sent out. They were married outside under a covered bridge in a soft misty sprinkle of rain. I wasn’t there. In the event of rain, we were to meet at the reception hall instead. That’s where we went. So sad to miss the ceremony, but glad they were in such a beautiful setting. They were living life and time flew, problems, rough patches, good times, love, becoming a family. She would come to karaoke when we were around. Visited at weddings and funerals and parties-still so vital and open.
I hadn’t seen her in a year or so, and her mom called, “I have some bad news. She has CANCER.” Oh no! I’ve never been a fan of that particular diagnosis. (Who is?) Seen too many people lost or left disabled or lives shortened. So she fought and endured her sickening, hair-destroying, life-altering treatments. Suffered and tested and doctored and ran. She ran to strengthen, to raise money for “the cause”, to honor those before her and those after who would make it and who wouldn’t. She became so strong in mind and body and SHE BEAT IT! She became an advocate for breast cancer research and women’s issues. She became a certified fitness boot camp instructor. She became an inspiration to many with her enthusiasm and encouraging words.
We still loved karaoke, still got together when we could, still shared lives-the good, the bad. We got together at a wedding-happy times. A small blip when she mentioned a few problems she was having. Then a couple months later a reunion. The possibility of multiple sclerosis. Hadn’t she suffered enough in her young life? A month later, at a prestigious clinic, the scan, the diagnoses. Brain cancer, lung cancer.
Mercy, mercy for her.
She’s been through so much and now there’s more.
More fear and pain and strength.
More doctors and more tests.
More worry and more hope.
More people’s prayers and “good thoughts”.
More fighting with despair.
More being strong for others.
More being strong for self.
More “refusing to be beaten down” or “let it win”.
More-deep inside-the whisper of the agony of defeat.
More sadness at the thought of mom and daddy losing their little girl-of brother and nephews losing sis and favorite auntie.
This vibrant, loving, giving heart ceasing to beat. This beautiful smile, infectious laugh and sweet voice-only a precious memory.
I know it’s been said all through history: why her, why him, why them, why me. But why can’t it be the thoughtless, the hurtful, the destroyer of children, the lovers of self to the exclusion of others. The sociopaths with no conscience, the killers, the thieves and the haters. Those whose joy is strife and turmoil and putting all down to elevate themselves. The selfish who bring babies into this world with no care for their tender beings.
Billy Joel said it all-though I wish it weren’t true.
I’m so grateful for those moments in karaoke time: laughing, singing, sharing, care-free happiness!
Now it’s cyber knife and searching for a chemo that will shrink and not seemingly promote the offending tumors. Wigs and hats and bandanas to cover that bare skull. Steroids and swelling and days when taking a step is an effort. We went to see her and now I can think of her sitting at the table, looking out at the garden with flowers and birds, or, on a good day, intent on her laptop. Reminiscing about that perfect shot-the huge taxidermied turkey a memento of happy hunting trips with daddy.
It’s not the end of her story. I hope I never see that! I want her to be laughing and loving and making her world a better place long after my ashes have been scattered and parceled out to loved ones.
I’ve heard so many elderly people’s advice, “Don’t ever get old!” I hope she gets old and wrinkled and white-haired and hard of hearing and full of the memories and songs of life.
READ "LeAnn #2" HERE