Today's Chai was one slippery little bastard and managed to get away from me. Damn those drinks.
Kidding, I didn't buy one because I was still suffering from the sugar induced coma from eating Hallowe'en candy for dinner last night.
Yesterday I wrote about the end of my marriage because it was the anniversary of that day and I think I left some of you feeling like I was in a bad place. I want to reassure you that I am fine and that I was merely observing that it's been a year since I left. Having taken two and half months off from writing, I feel the need to set the scene for some reflection about what the last year has meant to me. It's been a hell of a year in more ways than one and the journey continues.
Margriet is the mother of my niece and has been my friend since I was 18. We have not always been close as time and space both separated us, but she has, for Zoe's whole life, ensured my niece would know me and my family, even living on the other side of the country. She would call regularly and when Zoe was old enough to talk, she'd put that little tike on the phone to chat with us. Eventually Zoe was old enough to call herself and I know her mom encouraged her to do so and told her stories about us to make sure Zoe knew we were real people, not just strangers in Ontario. She wanted Zoe to know she had family who loved her even if we couldn't afford to make the trip to see her often. When Zoe was nine, Margriet agreed to put Zoe on a plane by herself (under the watchful eye of the airplane crew of course) so she could make the country-wide journey to visit with us for two weeks. My own Kate is nine and I'm barely comfortable letting her walk around the block by herself. But Margriet thought it would be amazing for Zoe to have that experience, not only to travel, but to spend time with us. That is just the type of person Margriet was. Adventurous, open-minded, bold, sassy, smart.
Around the same time as my marriage ended, Margriet's tumour began growing again and she suffered some seizures just before she was supposed to return to work. She'd been fighting this cancer for ten years and with the dissolution of my marriage and her sudden seizures, I was beginning to realize just how short life really is and I flew out to see her. Even with my marriage up in the air (we hadn't decided at that point whether the break was permanent) and my heart heavy with decisions to be made, it was the best thing I ever did. I spent a week running errands with Margriet, talking with Zoe, eating junk food, smoking, doing dishes, going to improv shows and trying to help out in small ways while Margriet recovered from her bout of seizures. The best part about my trip out west was finally getting to know the rest of Margriet and Zoe's family. Zoe's brother is pretty quiet and involved in his own teenage stuff, so I didn't see much of him, but I quickly grew to love Geoff, crazy, fast-talking, caring Geoff who calls everyone "my dear" without reservation. I didn't know how he would feel about me, being from Zoe's other family, but he immediately and wholeheartedly welcomed me into his home and into his family. Geoff will always hold a special place in my heart.
When I left in November, my last memory of Marg was when she dropped me off at the airport, she was still well enough to do that, but unwell enough that I was worried about her getting home. She hugged me for a long time and told me I was her sister and always would be and she was little bit mad at me for coming because now she would miss me when I was gone. I went down the ramp to the plane, but I did look back once to see her standing there, watching me go. I thought I would never see her again.
As fate would have it, I had planned to take the girls south in the spring and I thought, why on earth would I do that when I can take them to Vancouver to see Zoe's family? It just shows you that you never know what life will bring you. I thought I would never see Marg again, but I did. We had an amazing, if emotional trip. I wrote about it extensively and will post the links below. Margriet was not doing very well at that point and the tumour was causing so much damage to her brain that she was paralyzed on one side and tired easily, but she was still her sassy self, making jokes about her pervy hand that somehow always ended up in her lap, no matter where someone placed it for her. It was a hard trip and a sad trip, but I'm glad I was with the family for even a little while during that time. I'm glad my girls got to meet Margriet and I'm glad Margriet finally got to meet them.
On Wednesday last week, I got a text from Zoe asking that I call her when I got a chance and I knew she would tell me the news I was dreading to hear; Margriet had passed away an hour before. How does one describe the feeling of sadness, the relief, the ache, the hollowness, the peace that one experiences when a friend, suffering from a long illness, is gone? Truly, utterly gone from this world? I will never hear her voice again, although I can still imagine the tone and timber of her voice, can almost hear her laugh as she says, "I know, hey?" I will never see her face again, although I can easily call up an image of her standing on my porch so long ago. I will never get another text, another call. My last text to her was in April and I haven't been able to bring myself to delete the thread. But Margriet was in pain and had been paralyzed since March. She wasn't going to get better, she wasn't going to "beat" the tumour. She was not living the life she deserved, so how can I be sad that she is finally at peace? The day after I found out she was gone, I had a stormy, emotional breakdown that only one person whom I trust and love witnessed. Then I put my game face on and got on with what had to be done that day. Because the truth is, while the sadness I feel for Margriet's passing will never wholly leave me, I am glad her fight is over, that her family can move forward to live their lives. They have all dedicated the last six months to caring and loving Margriet. You will never meet a better bunch of people for giving everything they had to their friend, sister, wife, mother, but they also deserve to move on and find happiness in life again. I know they would give everything they have to spend one more day with Margriet, but since that is not possible, I am grateful that they now have a chance to begin healing.
Once again, I have something to ask of you. Live your life. Be happy. Enjoy a chai latte. Go on vacation. Read a book. Enjoy a bath. Look at the sky. Stand in the rain. Write a story. Whatever you wish you could do, just do it. Life is short and often unfair as hell, so take what you can from it and love every good moment you are lucky enough to receive.
Links to my blog while I was in Vancouver in April: