One last commentary on my high school reunion.
About an hour before I was leaving to go, I was getting ready and I suddenly felt my eyes fill up with tears. I remembered that Tim and I went briefly to the reunion five years earlier, but he had been diagnosed and wasn’t feeling well. It was great to see everyone, and many of my friends came to his benefits and stayed in touch with us throughout the rest of our journey. It started to hit me that an awful lot of life had been lived in the last decade. Not just for me, but for many others as well. I wondered if I would see them and just burst into tears.
What I found, was that indeed, many of us had changed. We had been through the fires of life. But the beauty of it was that instead of being beaten down, there was an appreciation for life and laughter and new priorities. It was unspoken, but I felt it.
One of my classmates had lost her mom. I remember when it happened. She had reached out to me and sent one of those apologies that basically said she had wished she had been more supportive when Tim was sick. Until you go through it, you just don’t realize the impact that cancer has on your life. I assured her she was plenty supportive and we had an entire community around us. But I felt for her and the tremendous loss she was suffering.
While we were hanging around at the reunion, she got telling a story about the funeral. She was able to laugh about it and had all of us cracking up. The gist was something like this: “So how the hell does a person know what the protocol is for a funeral home? I give this guy my mom’s dress and her wig. How weird is that? Here’s my mom’s clothes and hair. But then he asked me where her bra and underwear was. I had no idea I was supposed to bring that stuff too.” Only she was much funnier than I am re-telling it. Being the anti-bra woman who I am, I advocated for letting the poor woman be free without the damn thing. But the point is, being able to embrace the story and even smile when doing so.
Later, two of my friends that have survived breast cancer ended up sitting at the picnic table together. One of them was the definite life of the party I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs. She started this thing where she would point to our friend and say “cancer”, point to herself and say “cancer”, and then point to me and say “grieving widow.” Then she’d look at the poor sap sitting next to us and say, “So what have you got?” Invariably, they would say something like, “I got nothing.” and she would quip with, “Aw, maybe by the next reunion you will have something.” Again, it doesn’t translate well in writing, but while we were there, we were all drowning in laughter. She found a way to talk about the elephant in the room. She fully embraced it, found the sweet with the bitter, and we were all better for it.
The girls got telling stories about how they torture their sons with it too. One has three boys, the other has two. (Remember the hand sanitizer blog?) Boys, can you help with the laundry? Grumble, no. But I have cancer! MOM!!! They said it worked wonders with them.
When we were leaving, my dear friend reminded me that I really needed to call her and stay in touch. I lovingly reminded her that I have called her several times over the years and she rarely calls back so I stopped trying. She looked at me, cocked her head, and said ever so sweetly, “Oh… but I have cancer.” I called her a witch and we hugged goodbye.
Perhaps you think this is all morbid, but if you think so, it may be because you haven’t experienced it up close yet. I find it completely refreshing and I couldn’t have been more proud of all those strong, beautiful women I have a history with. You go sistas!