Today I am grateful to be alive. That’s it. Nothing fancy, nothing deep. I’m just grateful and blessed that I am healthy and here. I think about it a lot this time of year. One reason is because in a couple of days some of us celebrate the Jewish High Holy Days in which we ask God to “inscribe us in the Book of Life” for another year. The themes of life and death are prevalent and rather in-your-face this season and it’s easy to become focused on what it means to be alive.
I also think about life and death because September 17th marks four years since one of my best friends died of Breast Cancer. Amy was my partner in many ways. She was a truly vibrant and passionate soul. If she was in a good mood you could usually find us doubled over laughing with tears running down our faces. When she was in a bad mood, you could find me hiding in my office until she calmed down. She loved cookie cake and penne ala vodka and she was my strength many days when I had none.
Rationally, I knew Amy wouldn’t make it – probably before she even admitted it to herself. But miracles happen and all we can do is keep asking for that miracle. I remember the day she made the decision that she had to take a leave of absence from work so that she could gather her strength back – and I remember her walking out that door for the last time. As if it was yesterday, I remember being in the supermarket parking lot when I received the call from Amy and her sister Janet – “I’ve decided to stop treatment,” Amy said. “There’s nothing else that can be done.” As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I lost my father quite young, but my father’s death was sudden and unexpected. I had no idea how I would quite literally watch my friend die. I had irrational thoughts – ‘well, maybe if I just don’t call her or see her again then it won’t hurt as much.’ Or, ‘maybe the doctor is completely wrong. Maybe if we just fly to New York, or Boston, or Cleveland, then this can all be reversed.’ Neither of these options were really possible, so, over the next two weeks, I visited her, texted her, called her and spent every minute that I possibly could by her side. I won’t lie to you – it wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t poetic – it was painful and awful and sad. And when she finally died, the hurt was real and intense and all encompassing.
What Amy went through was a nightmare. And from her sickness she wanted everyone to learn to get themselves checked, follow through on medical care and go above and beyond to keep yourself healthy for those you love. Every October I laugh because she despised the “pink ribbon” movement. She always said she hated being reminded that she was sick, she’d rather be reminded that she was alive.
I miss Amy every second of every day, but I am grateful of her reminder that it is great to be alive. I am grateful of her reminder that we need to care for ourselves, to be attuned to our health and to make every moment count.