Sunday, March 15, 2015

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Today, I lost a very good friend. She was only 67 years old - young as far as I'm concerned. She had been battling a fatal lung disease for a while and finally her body could no longer handle it. She is no longer in pain. She is no longer unable to breathe. She is free.

Her name was Rose-Marie; or just Rose to those of us she was close to. Some may wonder how a 67 year old woman came to be my dear friend. Here is our story.

Rose with Lyla at her Christening.
Back in 2002 I was in college and totally sick of it. I needed a change. I applied for a CO-OP work experience at my school. After my first interview, I was placed at NICABM. It was my first official job doing event-type planning and I was so excited! It was an hour ride to and from each day which was a downer but the people I worked with made up for that. There was Ayo the sweet IT guy from Nigeria who was always willing to chat and make me feel better. Vin was the fun guy who actually convinced me to get almost wasted for my first business trip flight and was my accomplice for the one and only time I was ever paged by an airline to get on the plane! There was Toni who was a very kind woman who loved to tell us about her daughter. And then there was Rose.

She was something else! She worked in the office and was the first face we saw when we entered. The best thing about Rose was she told you like it was. If she was pissed off, you knew. If she was having a good day, we all were. She was blunt, fun, loved to curse, and such a character. I immediately bonded with her. It wasn't long before we all started hanging out during after work hours for a drink or dinner. My CO-OP was only for one semester so after I was done, I definitely missed the crew. After I left, Jared (the husband) and Eliza, another good friend of mine started to work there and eventually they joined our group of friends too. A few months later when I called the office to chat with Rose, Jared answered the phone and voila, the beginning of our courtship began. Mostly because of Rose. She encouraged us and I officially consider her our match maker.

I always kept in touch with Rose after that. She was one of my phone calls when we got engaged. She celebrated our wedding with us. She was one of the first people I told I was pregnant with Lyla and Brighton. She was also the one I went to when I needed to cry about my miscarriage. I remember sitting on her couch and she just hugged me and I sobbed in her arms. That wasn't something I could do with my family. I felt too bad to do that with them but Rose, she was easy to talk to and cry to. She didn't even have to say a thing; she just let me talk and cry. I always left her house feeling better.

Over the years life got in the way so I didn't see Rose as much but we always kept in touch and made a point to hang out as much as we could. We'd meet for lunch, stroll around the Christmas Tree Shop, or go to the diner next to her house. She cared so much for me and my family and told me every time we chatted that we were all in her prayers.

When Lyla was born, she just adored her. She became Auntie Rose and Lyla loved to visit her. Rose never forgot a birthday or Christmas and always had nice things for Lyla. She made her ABC letters to hang on her wall and we still have them up today.

This past summer, we met Rose for breakfast and I knew instantly something was wrong. She was coughing a lot and could barely breathe at all. After a few doctor visits, they finally diagnosed her with an awful lung disease they couldn't cure. She went on oxygen and after that rarely left her house. I got her another doctor to visit for a second opinion and I took her to another doctor for third opinion - but it was no use. I stopped at her house whenever I could to get her something she needed. I called more and visited more. All of a sudden the phone rang and she was in the hospital. She told me she was in the end stages and there was nothing left to do. That was just over a week ago. I ran up to the hospital with Jared that night and in the ICU she was breathing and talking the best she had been in ages. Rose was very morbid talking about her plans. She said she was ready and had all her affairs in order. I didn't believe it, couldn't. I just figured she was getting down. I truly believed she'd get better and go home.

I didn't know where she'd be so I didn't call her right away after seeing her. I called her house and left a message last week and then her friend called me back with the news. She said Rose had had a rough weekend and most likely wouldn't last another week let alone a few days. I was in shock even though deep down I knew. The next day, I made the long one hour trip to the hospital again after dropping the kids off with my mom. I went there knowing it may very well be the last time I see her and tried to prepare myself for saying goodbye.

I sat down next to her but she had just gotten a large dose of morphine and it was making her sleepy. She kept apologizing. Before I was there too long I needed to tell her something.

I told her that I loved her and she was like family to me. I told her my children adore her. I told her if it hadn't been for her, I wouldn't have married Jared and had my two amazing children. I told her that one of the reason's she was on this earth was so that I could meet and marry Jared and have my family. I thanked her for that and told her how grateful I am to have had her in my life. I also told her that I loved her so much but I really hated her lungs for doing this to her.

She squeezed my hand through it all and said she loved me too. She smiled and I felt as if a sense of calm washed over her. She fell asleep for a bit and then I just started to talk as if we were just having a conversation on the phone as per usual. I told her about Lyla's desire to take violin lessons and how well she's doing with it. I told her how Brighton was sleeping better and his Christening was coming up. I told her how I was back to work and it sucked.

Then I helped her sit up and have dinner. She then asked for ice cream and made them get me one too. I held up the little ice cream cup and did "cheers!" with it with her. I said it was our version of a cocktail and I kissed her and told her that I loved her again.

After just over an hour of holding her hand and talking, she was even more sleepy and I had to get back to the kids. I stood up and said I needed to go but I'd see her again this weekend. I just couldn't say goodbye right there and then. I kept telling her I would see her but to do what she needed to do. I didn't want her to hang on to see me again. I wanted her to not be in pain anymore.

I told her I'd see her but I didn't. I'm glad I didn't say goodbye to her when I saw her and I'm glad we left each other as we did. She was awake and alert enough to have had a good visit with me. But I'm going to miss her.

I feel grateful I knew it was time and could see her that one last time. But I couldn't say goodbye. I don't know if it's harder to say goodbye because you know or you don't know and you can't say goodbye. Either way, death is inevitable for us all but just that fact alone doesn't make it any easier.

Rose, you were loved by all who knew you and we will all miss you. Rest in peace, Auntie Rose.

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