Both co-workers' mothers were unexpected. They died relatively young, leaving their daughters in shock and disbelief, wondering how to carry on without them. There are family stories that will never be told, grandchildren who will never fully know what their grandmothers were all about.
Both of the children who died were also adults. Their parents are my peers, who started much earlier than I did in the having-babies business. One friend is of recent acquaintence. He and his wife are part of our dinner group that meets the second Sunday of the month. We like them quite a bit, but we are not close... not yet. Their daughter died in a horseback riding accident. I don't know details, but I know they are in shock at the sudden loss of their daughter. They are gathering their grandchildren (nearly adults) around them and I hope, taking some comfort in their nearness.
The other child belonged to my best friend for nearly 40 years. We grew up together and after high school, headed in different directions. We stayed in touch, writing and calling and once in a great while visiting. To say that her life has been challenging would be the understatement of the year, but never has the past rivaled what she's been through these last few years.
She has two sons that she loves dearly, but it is the second son I am talking about today. He was smart (and a smart-ass to boot - she LOVES that about him!) and full of life. My friend just glowed when she spoke about him.
He joined the Navy right out of school with the goal of being a SEAL. This is not aiming low - it's one of the most challenging jobs in the Navy. And he went for it. Oh, his mama was so proud! Then he started having some pain in his leg. I suspect he ignored it for a while, not wanting to lose his place or be called lazy. But one day, he and a buddy were driving back from leave and his leg was really hurting, so his friend took him to the hospital. It was not good news.
My friend went out to San Diego to be with him. And he was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma - a pediatric bone cancer. At age 20, he was old to have it and that made it a more serious diagnosis. She stayed. Through the exploratory surgeries, the chemo, and finally the amputation of his leg. He was discharged from the Navy and she took him home.
He was an active guy before - hunting and doing all the things that growing up in that neck of the woods lends itself to. But when he got home, his life changed. The activity was different - and it had a purpose. He got legs.
He and his mom became active in the fight against cancer. I don't know that this ever occurred to them before, but having experienced it first hand, they were determined to help do something about it. There were races and walks.
He had an amazing sense of humor.
And all the while, they battled on. Cancer appeared in his other bones, in his lungs. They moved the whole family to make access to treatment easier. When the conventional treatments stopped working, they tried experimental treatments and studies. I honestly don't know how long it took to get from his drive to San Diego and today. It seems to have lasted forever... and gone by in the blink of an eye. There was a whole life before - and a whole life after.
Many of their trips to treatment looked like this, so I suppose it's only fitting that his memorial, being held today at a duck pond he enjoyed, will also be in the rain. There, God's tears of welcome and his mother's tears of sadness will become one.
I didn't know this young man. I'd met him a few times from his toddlerhood on - but I know that if he was anything like his mother (and I'm pretty sure he was), he was a joyful presence, a force to be reckoned with, an a child of God. As his mother, my dearest friend, said "He is whole now and no longer in pain." I know she will feel the pain of his absence from her life and joy in having had him there in the first place. I wish I could be with her today but she will be surrounded by friends and will not be alone. When it is all said and done and she needs to get away, she will come here - and I will take her to the beach. To breathe. To feel the sun on her shoulders. To feel the salt water on her feet. And to share her thoughts with her friend, who loves her deeply. I love you girl.
My friend, her son, and a family friend