She was always pushing me, kindly, to try online dating. After years of being single, she had finally met this amazing man who was so smitten with her, that she wanted me to have that same joy. Even after his dibilitating stroke only a short time later, she stuck by his side, faithful in his struggle.
We all struggled to understand God's purpose in his stroke. As if the joy those two had found together was too much, and had to be trimmed back. It was difficult for everyone, but she pushed through.
So when her diagnosis came, lung cancer, in a non-smoker, any attempt to comprehend a purpose became impossible. In her early 40's, her parents had to move in to help. She finally had to make the impossibly difficult decision to put her new, far too young, husband in assisted living as she was unable to care for him properly while undergoing rounds of chemo and radiation. It's all too familiar, in so many ways. We were friends before, but she turned to me with confidence during, because I was an expert on these things in her eyes.
And the cancer simply continued to spread. One small victory was only met with yet another discovery of cancer in a new location. Her back, her bones, and finally, her brain.
She would stop me in the halls at school to talk about the process of dying. I had been there, when my mother passed and she wanted answers, she wanted comfort. She wanted peace. As difficult as it was to think about those days with Mom, I told her anything she wanted to know. I promised her all the things I had no right to promise. "It is peaceful, painless...". We talked about God and Heaven, and while she believed, it was easy to understand her struggles to grasp His love in all of this.
It was alsways difficult for me, to see her. Sitting in a meeting, I would watch her scratch her head under an itchy wig, and I would flashback to Mom doing the exact same movement. I would visit her at home and with her wig off, her bare, round head just made my heart ache for my mom. But we sat and talked and I comforted in every way I knew how.
I went last week, with friends, to visit her in the hospital. One friend asked me if it was hard for me to be in the hospital, to see it all again. "No," I said, "I know she needs me." But she was surrounded by so many people, so much family, so much pain. Her need now was for medicated comfort, and her time left was no longer hers, but existed to give all of us time to say goodbye.
And so we did. We said goodbye to a beautiful woman. Imperfectly human. A co-worker who equally drove you crazy with disorganization but still lit up a room with her tender heart for teaching. She loved the kids. But now she is gone.
And once more, we begin a school year with the loss of one of our own. The familiar extends to the whole staff, reliving another such loss just a few short years ago. We will comfort each other and say trite, unhelpful things like, "She is better now," but we all wish for more than that to hold onto. We all wish for an explanative glimpse into God's perspective. We all wish such terrible things didn't happen to such good people.