Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Loss of Fantastic and Magnificent

Well, hello. It's been more than a year since I've written here.  The changes that have happened in the last year are astounding, unbelievable even. But I won't write about them now or, maybe, ever. I came back here to change a few privacy settings (I've been getting spam in the comments section of past posts) and discovered something I wish I had published a year ago. It isn't finished, but it is beautiful. This is a piece I wrote about the loss of the Fantastic Ms. Fox in January of last year. I won't say anymore, just read:

Allow me to get the easy bit out of the way by saying that I am, for the most part, fine. Still steroidal, still no idea what happened to my sad little RBCs, still a bit blotchy. Though now I have the pleasure of being a bit puffy in the face which is just bleeding awesome. Let me tell you how much I've enjoyed looking in the mirror and seeing my head fat up again. Does wonders for a girl's self-esteem, let me tell you.

There is no easy segue between my missing red blood cells and what I really need to write about tonight, so I'm just going to write. The ability to write this post is thanks to a drug whose name rhymes with 'shmanshmax'. Better living through chemistry, or something like that.

In the last two months I have lost two of the most vibrant, influential, generous, beautiful, deeply inspirational women in my life. Saying that "I" have lost these women feels selfish, the world lost these women. However, I'm in a place of extreme tunnel vision (emotion?) and can't muster a much more honest way to put it. Each of these women deserves an entry here on their own, but I selfishly can't manage it. These women each inhabited overlapping parts of my life: childhood, yoga, friendship, work, marriage and, worst of all, cancer.  If you asked me three years ago to write down who from my life I would project to be ripped from this life prematurely at the hands of cancer, neither of these women would have crossed my mind (the thought of actually writing something like that down is so gruesome it turns my stomach). For tonight, I'll write what I have accessible. Call it 'self care'.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Laurie passed away. Laurie, the Fantastic Ms. Fox, is someone I've written about here before, though I've never shared her name. Something tells me she would be alright with me writing this now. Laurie was Phil's neighbor and his mother's dearest friend. She was like a favorite aunt to Phil and treated him (and me too) like her child. We practiced yoga together at the same studio and would sometimes walk together to class ( I pass her house on the way). The first time I met Laurie (and her husband) was on the first Christmas Eve Phil and I were dating. It was in his parent's kitchen and it was about ten seconds after his parent's dog, Jake, peed on my feet. I was mortified and Laurie thought it was about the damn funniest thing in the world. Laurie and her husband were present at every holiday, every party, every birthday, ordinary days, Saturday morning yoga classes, our wedding. She pinned Phil's boutteneir on his tuxedo before leaving for the church and nearly danced a hole in the dance floor at our reception. She and her husband are in the background of most of our pictures. 

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I remember watching my mother-in-law fall apart. I remember watching Laurie sun-salute her way back to health after radiation and got a thrill for her whenever she pushed up into danurasana in class. Promising that she would kick into handstand she had an incredibly strong 'L-pose'. Laurie beat breast cancer. I was with Laurie when I got the phone call that my bone marrow donor had been confirmed and my transplant dates scheduled. We had gone to lunch and she had picked out some comfortable yoga clothes for me as a gift. She took line dancing and piano lessons and I think she even took French. She could COOK. Oh my god, could she cook.  Her cheesecake would haunt your dreams. She was no-nonsense, to the point, but incredibly warm. You were drawn to her. Everyone was. She and my MIL would laugh and laugh and laugh in this really infectious way. She had a way of saying "Oh, my GAWD" that I can still hear and still makes me crack a smile. She listened to Lady Gaga. 

Then Laurie got sick again. 

This time it was pancreatic cancer and it had spread. She was in pain. She was tough and she fought again but this time the cancer was angrier. She started going to treatment at the same hospital I did so I had the chance to visit with her once or twice when we both had infusions or appointments on the same day. Laurie asked me to come play harmonium for her, so I did. I sat on the floor of her beautiful house and laughed with her when her cat climbed inside of the harmonium case. We talked about cancer and she gave me some of her cook books. I found tiny scraps of paper marking her favorite recipes, and ones she planned to make, in the pages of these books a few weeks later. There are pictures of this day that make me cry. When her hair started to fall out, Laurie asked if I would come with her and her sister to help pick her wigs. She LOVED shopping and had a hell of sense of style. We had a wonderful day and the memory of it is one of my most cherished. Laurie worked at a private school not too far from where we live and she was beloved there. Known for her sympathetic ear and full candy bowl, the students and faculty loved her. She worked until she simply couldn't anymore. When she went to hospice, the walls of her room were covered in pictures and letters from her students, all emblazoned with her signature 'fox'. She read every one of those notes. I brought the harmonium, Laurie's harmonium, to the hospital and played for her. She died quietly and it was breathtakingly sad. At her funeral I heard stories about how much Laurie had done for everyone in her life. She was a light in this community and her touch has rippled so far. It will continue to ripple through our lives and for that I am so grateful. I hear her voice whenever I sit down to play harmonium. It's her way of living on in a very tangible way in my mind. I can feel her in the vibration of the floor, the resistance of the air in the bellows, hear her in the drone of the reeds.

I've been unable to write about Laurie until now. Usually when a 'cancer friend' has passed, I write here within a few days. Laurie was not a 'cancer friend', she was a friend who was stolen by cancer. I loved Laurie and I miss her terribly. Every note I play carries her in it and THAT keeps her beautiful, magnificent, FANTASTIC spirit alive in this world for me. Rest sweetly, peacefully and in the light, Laurie. I love you.