Off Course

I still stay in touch with a bunch of people I used to work with, before the emploment ended back in December.  Some of them also read this site. 

Yesterday morning I got a call from one of them.  It was early, on a Sunday, and the news was shocking.  A woman who had also worked there – for the past 10 years – she’d started less than a year after I did – this woman had died.  On Friday.

I knew she’d been out on an extended medical leave since some time after I left.  But no one I asked seemed to know why.  Apparently she kept it to herself, or swore people to secrecy.

I liked her.  She was upper management, and hers was not always the easiest position to hold in a company.  But she was always kind and pleasant.

Over the years I learned tiny bits about her – little tiny things she’d share in conversation, but to the best of my knowledge, she pretty much kept her personal life personal.  Which is fine.  Some people share way too much of their lives with their coworkers.  Less, I think, is more.

I know she and her husband were foster parents for many years, and she adopted her teenage son right around the same time I gave birth to my biological son.  She mentioned this to me when we were going over my maternity leave paperwork, and she told me she was eligible for it as well, because of the adoption.  Just a little thing, just a little peek in the window, but in some way it was more personal than all the other pregnancy and childbirth stories I’d previously heard from friends and family.  She didn’t have to tell me anything.  But she did.

To borrow a commonly used phrase, cancer sucks.  It’s a gross understatement, especially for those who battle cancer and the loved ones who watch and pray and hold close and hold their breath every minute of every day. 

This woman died of cancer.  Another one of those many instances where your heart just screams out "She was too young!  It’s not fair!"  Too many instances.

So since yesterday morning, my brain has been turning this news around and around, checking it out from all angles, like it’s a Rubik’s cube, trying to line up the images of a fit and healthy person I last saw three months ago, a woman not young, but not old by any stretch of the imagination, with the phone call I received and the obituary I read online.  The squares aren’t matching up.  I can’t get the colors in the right places.  I can’t solve the puzzle.  It doesn’t make sense.

Cancer, as everyone knows, doesn’t make sense.  Not a sense that you can reluctantly nod and say, yeah, okay, I see why.  I understand.  It’s not like, oh, a car accident.  A car slams into a tree, okay, yeah, you can see the car is wrecked, you can see why, even if the driver was wearing a seatbelt, they could not have survived.  Maybe.  It’s not a nice comparison, but, you know, there’s an "if A then B" bit of logic to it.  Not emotionally, no, but cause-and-effect-ly.

Not so now.  I’m having trouble with this. 

Of course, I was not a part of her family.  Not a close friend or anything.  Perhaps she had been battling this for some time.  So maybe her passing came at the end of a much longer battle.  Like my late sister-in-law, who had been fighting cancer for 4 years before it attacked her brain and put an end to the fighting. 

This one was – at least from my view on the sidelines – so sudden. 

I am saddened by it.  I am so sorry for her family and close friends.  Her son.  Her husband.  This line from her obituary lingers in my thoughts.  "She was the wife, lover, best friend and partner…" of her husband of 25 years.  There is such poignant beauty in that line.  Such love.  Such loss. 

I am so sorry.

It’s not fair. 

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