About Me

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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

My Heart Bleeds

My friend Kathy lived with cancer for almost 20 years. Her battle came to end on August 26th and I know she's both mad and relieved. Of course she's relieved that she is no longer in any pain and she's with our Lord in Heaven - she was a strong Christian woman. But I also know she would have been mad that the cancer got her in the end. She always told me that she wanted to go down in medical textbooks as the woman who lived most of her life with cancer and that it wasn't what got her in the end. It did.

I met Kathy at the local indoor pool one summer long ago when our daughters (she had 3 and I had 2) were at swimming lessons. As we sat watching the girls, we got to talking and found out that we both went to the same church but that neither of our husbands went with us. What a bond that was! Our daughters were all around the same age, with my older one being just a few months older than her oldest and her youngest being just a year younger than my youngest. When we met they ranged in age from 2 to 6 but now they're 27 to 31. We started sitting together at church and went to adult Sunday School classes together for a while. Then we decided to drop the girls off for the early children's Sunday School and go out for breakfast at the White Spot before going back for the 11:00 am service. That became our ritual every week until both of us moved away.

Kathy and her family moved to Regina, Saskatchewan the same summer that we moved to Ottawa, Ontario. That was in July of 1986. No such thing as the internet then, so we would type our letters as a sort of "chat," starting off by saying "Make a cup of tea and settle down for a good long read." We both looked forward to those letter so much as neither of us knew anyone in our new home cities. We'd pour out our hearts to each other as though we were right in each other's kitchen.

Then in 1987, I was so homesick that my husband agreed that we'd drive across Canada to surprise our families. He took three weeks vacation and one of our overnights was at Kathy's home in Regina. What a reunion that was! Eventually, her husband was transferred to Edmonton, Alberta, where they settled.

When computers became more widely used, we'd type our letters in WordPerfect format (remember that old software?), print them out and mail them. Funnily enough, I saved all my letters to her and printed them out, filling a huge binder. These letters are a sort of journal for me and I use it whenever I need reminding of details for the book I'm writing. When her daughter phoned me about Kathy's passing, she said she'd been going through her mother's things and she found all the letters I'd mailed to her! I almost lost it then.

I went to visit her several years ago while she was still having chemo. She had finally agreed to try it again when she came out of remission. The first time they put her on chemo, she was so sick, she said she'd rather die than go through that. But they managed to find some anti-nausea medication that helped her endure the procedure the second time.

I'll never forget that visit. She picked me up at the airport wearing her wig (it looked just like her own hair and hairstyle that she'd had for years.) But when we got home and were sitting around the fireplace (it was December) she suddenly yanked that wig off her head, announcing loudly, "I'm too hot to wear this damn thing!" Well, I was shocked at first, but then it was fine.

The next day, we drove to Red Deer where we spent a couple of days. That night at the motel we got ready for bed. First she took off her wig. Then off came the bra with the two fake boobs. Then out came the contact lenses. Well, we started to laugh. She said, "All I need now is a wooden leg to remove." And we laughed and laughed until we both thought we were going to pee! It was what we needed the most - a laugh, that is, not the pee.

Kathy and I were each other's ear and shoulder when we desperately needed someone to confide in. And every year at Christmas she'd send me a long letter complete with photos of the girls and her husband and herself. Every Christmas I'd put those photos on my fridge and pray for her every day. This Christmas there will be no letter or photos. But I will never forget her as long as I live. I told her oldest daughter that I hope she and her sisters will keep in touch with me and that I would love to tell them some stories about her mother and me. All of the girls live in Vancouver now and since there's no other family in Edmonton I wonder if John will move back here. I'll ask him when I write.

Kathy was a strong woman, even quite feisty. She had a great faith and was active in her church. She was a trained teacher, taught piano, sewed for the family (even parkas when they lived in the Yukon), worked for the legislature in Edmonton part-time and also was responsible for a stretch of public gardens in the city. She never stopped doing something. Cancer made her an even stronger person. She knew her time was limited and so she took each one of her daughters on a couple of "last trips" so that they'd each have special memories of their time together. It got to the point that her husband John commented to her, "How many 'last trips' do you need to take?" Her answer: "As many as I need."

This afternoon my friend Cathy (with a C) and I went for a walk along Centennial Beach. It was a glorious day, sunny and warm but with a good brisk breeze excellent for flying kites. The first thing I noticed when we started walking was a cloud that looked just like an angel - it stayed like that for so long. I didn't say anything to Cathy (with a C) but I thought of Kathy (with a K) as we strolled along. Her passing was gentle, and so I'm happy she's finally at rest. She fought a brave battle and now she can be at peace. She's the first of my friends to go but I know we'll meet again one day and the heavens will resound with our laughter.

I know that this would be what Kathy would want to say to me:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints in the snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there. I did not die.

Author unknown...

Kathy will be forever remembered by her friend Leslie.


Jo said...

Leslie, oh gosh! I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I think your friendship is one of the things that sustained her throughout the years.

The cloud does look like an angel. I'm starting to believe in angels, by the way...

mrsnesbitt said...

I too have been thinking today Leslie, September 7th was the date my mum died..also dad'd birthday. The poem says it all.


CrazyCath said...

Oh my. That is one of the most heart warming and heart felt tributes anyone could give to a friend. What wonderful memories.

I am sorry for your loss, but as you say, you WILL see her again one day.

Beautifully written. Take care.

sally in norfolk said...

How lucky she was to have you as a friend. sorry for your loss x x

ArneA said...

I´m sorry to read about your friend and your loss.

Louis la Vache said...

What a fine tribute you've posted for your friend, Leslie.

Katney said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Leslie. I am tearful in being reminded of my Mom and Sis and others I have lost to cancer, too. I will add Kathy's name to those I honor as I walk the Breast Cancer 3-Day later this week.

Trubes said...

My heartfelt condolences to you Leslie, on the loss of your friend.
A most touching tribute to an enduring friendship.
RIP. Kathy.


starnitesky said...

Leslie, you had a wonderful friendship with Kathy which I am sure will last for eternity. My heart goes out to you at this sad time.

Take Care

RiverPoet said...

Leslie -

I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. I know what it feels like to lose someone, but few of us have friends as close to us as Kathy (with a K) nor friends who hold to us so sincerely. I'm glad you two had each other.

Peace - D

VP said...

Such a moving story Leslie. You must miss Kathy very much. But you've proved that distance was no barrier to your friendship, so I'm sure the same holds true for now.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

So sorry to read your bad news. A very touching tribute and what wonderful and beautiful memories you will have. You are in my prayers.

Claudia said...

Dear Leslie,
What a lovely tribute to your dear friend. My girlfriend Of 40 years has just been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian and lung (non-smoker) cancer! I am sick over this...cancer also took my husband 13 years ago. My heart and prayers go out to you and her family.

marina said...

I lost my friend Jenny from cancer last Easter. She was a mom of two young children. I believe that they won't be forgotten for as long as we think of them...

Anonymous said...

This was an interesting post as is the one above it. Not sure where to comment for "H" I chose this one. Anyway I like your writing as well as your photography.

I only have one "H" for my post today. I hope you like it. I put it on Canon Pixels

david mcmahon said...

Leslie, bless you for the power of this post.

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Leslie what a wonderful emotional writer you are, I was really moved by this beautiful piece on your wonderful friendship.

I am so sorry for your loss.

photowannabe said...

What a true and real friendship you two had. Thats a bond that will never be broken. I am so touched my this tribute. Please save it and put it in thejournal too.
Angels watching over me came to mind when looking at that picture. Awesome.


a very warm tribute to a fine person. 20 years is a long time to live with this disease. my parents both suffered from it for much less time, i still feel their loss every day.

dot said...

What a beautiful friendship!

Michele (Rocky Mtn.Girl) said...

I'm sorry I wasn't around sooner, Leslie. This is such a beautiful post... a wonderful tribute.
You are such a beautiful person.
I hope you are doing well.

lime said...

here from david's. what a loving tribute to a dear friend who touched you so deeply. i am sorry for your loss but glad you do not mourn as one without hope. peace to you and to her loved ones.

Lee said...

That's a wonderful tribute to your friend, Leslie! I did the same thing for mine two years ago, she passed for the same reason. I hope you feel Kathy's spirit near you often. God bless you!


Celebration of Life said...

Hello Leslie!
I came over from David's blog and can understand why he picked your blog for "Post of the Day."
Friendships like yours and Cathy's (with a C) are hard to find and can never be dimminished. Just as you adjusted from your transfers and still had communication (so very different from what you had in person) you will be able to adjust to another type of communication; you already have had evidence of that in the 'Cloud Angel.' Thanks for celebrating Cathy's life for now she lives on in all of us who have ready your blog.
Hugs from Wyoming,

Anonymous said...

Thank you. That was a truly beautiful tribute to your friend.

San said...

I feel like I have a sense of your dear friend, thanks to your wonderful story. My heart goes out to you in your loss, but your post is an uplifting one, acknowledging the blessing of such a friendship, acknowledging the way the friendship continues throughout time. And yes, acknowledging the way we are all connected in this wild gift of life.

Liz said...

I'm thinking of you and sending love.

Daryl said...

May she rest in peace.

What a beautiful eloquent post, Leslie.

The day my dad passed we spent the morning together and I didnt want to leave but I had a plane to catch ... he said: no matter what happens, I will fine.

I am sure that angel cloud was sent by Kathy to let you know she's fine ...



Cathy said...

Very nice blog.. Great story telling. Thanks for visiting mine.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

beautifully written and very poignant.
a lovely post.

Ruth D~ said...

She's not gone, is she? If you can write such a post and share it . . . and we see Cathy (with a C) she's still here. But it's not the same, and I'm so sorry for your loss.

PERBS said...

It took me a long time to read this post because my tears came gushing every time I tried to go on. My eyes are still "wet" as I type this. I bet my twn sis was there to welcome Kathy with a K to heaven. I miss my sis too -- been 30 years now. . .

The Bold Soul said...

What a wonderful way to remember your friend and to let the rest of us know about how special she was, and what a remarkable friendship you had. I have known my best friend for over 20 years too, and our worst moment together was six years ago when her youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at just 21 months old. There were times we didn't think "our" little girl would make it, but she did... and just celebrated her 8th birthday last week.

I'm so sorry Kathy didn't win her battle with cancer but what an inspiring woman she must have been. Peace to you, Leslie.

Nydia said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Leslie. As I watched my sister suffering until losing her battle against brain cancer, I know how you feel. Keep your heart warm, because you had the privilege and the honour of being her friend and experienced this friendship in this life. That's how I deal with my sister's death. I thank the honour I was given by being chosen to be her sister and friend as long as she lived. All of us have this short time to live and only some people share our moments of happiness and pain, blessed be it!