Lisa – I dreamed about you last night. It doesn’t happen often, but last night we were back together again. Although parts of the dream were fleeting, it warmed my heart this morning to know we spent a few more moments together, even if it was in the dream world.
In the beginning I didn’t know you were there – I was in a college dorm hallway trying to get in line for a shower. Another friend of mine was in there, so I put my clothes and things down to wait. I went back a few minutes later and greeted her as she was leaving. I walked into the room and it was a very messy dorm room. Clothes were strewn everywhere and I saw milk and some other groceries on the counter to put away. In my head I was laughing at the mess knowing you would never have allowed a room to look like this.
I opened the small dorm fridge and it was almost full but I started to cram stuff in. That was when you arrived and started laughing about how full the fridge was. We both started working on getting things put away as I slowly became aware of my alarm going off. I woke into a gradual understanding of my wakeful state and that I had been dreaming.
I was happy to see you again – there are few in this world that I connect to in the way that we did, although most of that connection for us was based on growing up together. The Lisa/Lisa partnership was a great one, and one that would have been lovely to carry into adulthood.
We didn’t get that chance. Cancer abruptly interrupted the beginning of your grownup journey, and ended 10 years later. So many things we didn’t get to experience together, so much time lost. But I wanted to thank you for some insight into your world. You have helped me live life differently, to appreciate so many things, and to take notice when I might otherwise lose sight of what is important.
See, I have cancer too. What are the odds? Although a different type of cancer than what you had, the diagnosis made me think of you. That initial fear and dread, the instant fight reflex, the shock and awe that takes over. How could this happen? How did you cope? I remember the day you told me, I remember the crying, the disbelief.
I remember that I wasn’t here for most of your journey. We were so young, only 21, and not even in the same state. We talked often, but it wasn’t the same. I didn’t get to go to your appointments, be with you when you woke up from surgery, hold your hand during the pain, or make you a meal. I could pretend it wasn’t so bad when you brushed it off, told me you were okay, and we talked of other things. I wasn’t here. I had my own life to live.
These days I am on your side, telling people that it is okay, fighting against the fatigue and the pain, thanking people for endless meals and support, and living my life. But I learned some very important lessons during your battle; I just didn’t know I was learning them at the time. Lessons that you didn’t have as you braved cancer so much younger than I am now.
I’ve learned to always look for the good in every day, even the days filled with pain or tiredness.
I’ve learned that I cannot control everything, and trying to do so causes more damage than good. Trying to control everything causes more stress than relief.
I’ve learned that what my kids need from me is time. My time. Not clothes, or gifts, or things. Just me. As I am.
I’ve learned that relationships are everything. Even the hard ones.
I’ve learned that you were stronger than I ever knew.
And that your daughter is just like you.
I won’t get to share with you how amazing it has been to watch her grow up, smiling like you. Smart. Beautiful. And gracious.
I won’t get to ask you how you did it – surviving, fighting, living with your pain, losing your vision, losing so much of who you felt you were.
But I know in my heart that you paved a way for me to be brave and to fight the battle differently, that your gift to me was courage. I’m sure you didn’t know the gift you were giving. The gift you gave me even as you were dying.
But I know. I understand. Thank you for showing me what you didn’t know. For being my friend and my strength at a time when I didn’t have much of either. For sharing with me all of you.
I miss you – it’s been a long time. You come to mind when I don’t expect it. Some times over and over for days, then nothing for months. Know that you build me up and bring me peace when I worry.
Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for being an example of bravery.
Thank you for showing me the way.
I love you.