So, if you have been following along, you will know that my friend Tom Hunter passed away a few days ago...
While this was tragic, and quite an upset to the folk community, it was by no means the only topsy to my turvy life.
Tom first became ill and was diagnosed in April-May. In the meantime, two women friends had been fighting the good fight against F-ing Cancer for a while now.... So I was already on pins and needles, just waiting for the phone to ring or the e-mail to arrive. Let me just tell you about the past thirty days....
False Alarm....June 3
On June 3, the phone rang. It was not a call I expected. It was from a friend asking me if it were true that a mutual acquaintance had left work for the ER suffering from chest pains. Now this was a story being circulated by teenagers, so I had to call and check. I called the mutual friend's office, asked the secretary "yes or no, is she or isn't she" and the second I heard "yes" I said goodbye, put the phone down and grabbed my keys and headed for the hospital. In all honesty, I had been a little less than friendly with my friend for a few weeks, and was looking forward to a summer break to let the nerve endings relax, but seeing her in the hospital bed changed all that. I broke down and told her, begged her, not to die just yet, that I still needed her around. I know, that's pretty stupid and self centered, but I guess in a way it was like seeing ME in there, and really not being ready for my own mortality. I mean, if my peers can just be dropping like flies, how could I possibly be prepared? How could my children? My mother? I spent about 3 hours in the hospital, and then I left her with her family. She was discharged to her home, where she had family stay overnight. (good news, she is fine, no apparent damage or involvement, other then TOO MUCH STRESS)
Leslie Vietch- June 3
Ten days before before graduation, the same friend told me that another mutual acquaintance had been diagnosed in March with F-ing Abdominal Cancer, and hospice had been called in. March? 3 months? WTF?? Later that same afternoon, June 3, I received the e-mail, she had died over the weekend and her funeral plans were made for the afternoon of Big Sister's high school graduation ceremony....
I went to the funeral, it was so so sad, so many us women looking at their own mortality, so many of us looking around, hugging friends, thinking quietly...Are you next? Are you? Am I?
Jose Simon- June 6
My first husband called me from the airport later that afternoon. He had flown in from a business trip to SF, and saw a guy I met in San Francisco years ago. I told my first husband to tell him we had a mutual friend, and he said, Oh, yeah, terrible that he died suddenly in April after a surgical procedure. I was stunned when I heard that. Jose was a little guy with a big heart and a big vision. He created Comedy Day in San Francisco Golden Gate Park. He was a genius. He was a MexicanMenstch. And he was always so kind and generous to me and my family.
Ruth Ashworth June 7
The next morning there was another e-mail...another death in the community, one of the two women couldn't fight it anymore...It being Saturday, of course, meant the next day was church. (Unitarian, don't get excited) and I had agreed to usher. There were so many tears that morning, people hugging, crying, random and frequent "I love you"s and "take care of yourself" all morning...
Tom Hunter June 20
That Wednesday, June 18, I gathered all my courage, and drove up to his house....I had heard that he was no longer responsive. I wanted to do something I wasn't sure I could see him, and even if I did, I wasn't sure I could hold it together....so I left my car at the bottom of the hill and walked up to the back door. Morgan, Aeden's sweetheart, turned her head towards me, just as I had put the flowers on the deck and was turning to leave. I caught her eye, and we waved at each other. She came out of the house and asked me if I wanted a hug. Of course, I said and then I gave her a hug big enough for the five of them, Morgan, Tom, Gwen, Aeden and Irene. (Poor Morgan, I'm sure I squished the air out of her!!) She gave the me lowdown on what was happening inside, and after a few minutes, she went back in, and I turned to leave..I slowly, really slowly walked to the gate, and then Irene cam out, shortly followed by Gwen. It was so good to see them both, so good to give them both hugs.
And then they invited me in...and I've already told that story, so I won't repeat it. The memorial for Tom was June 28, about 500 people in a packed church all there to cry, sing and share a mournful moment.
Jim Maynard June 23
My friend Kathy sent me an e-mail that her father-in-law died a week after falling in his house. He didn't go to the hospital after the fall. He didn't even go to the doctor. But he didn't feel right. The day he died, apparently his sister sent somone to his house to DRAG him to the doctor, but it was too late..she found him on, the ground, and it was too late....
Katie Walker-Friday July 2
OK, so this is the second of the two women who I talked about earlier...this to me is almost the most tragic, even though each of the above is so so sad. I guess what I mean is that Katie's passing is so hard for me, not because she and I were close, in fact, we only even connected over her being sick, but because her youngest two children are just a year younger than each of mine. As amazing a family as they are, the thought of her two children not having her at their high school graduation, the day they go off to college or other passages they are sure to experience is beyond my comprehension.
I don't very much enjoy this stage of my life..watching so many of my peers, my friends pass before me.
I guess what makes it even more ironic (is that the right use of the word Stennie?) is that yesterday, my friend Nina's killer had a three hour parole hearing (which was thankfully denied.) It occurred to me that after she died, I made a silent promise to keep her memory alive. Then when another friend died who was particularly inspirational to me, I promised to keep his memory alive. Now with all these passings in the past thirty days, I am overwhelmed with memories to keep alive. Maybe I need to figure out a different way to handle death.