Someone I loved very much has died. Karen was my next door neighbor for 7 years, and she died of complications from breast cancer. She leaves behind her 12 year old daughter and her husband of 25 years.

I remember the day six years ago when she told me she had found lump in her breast. She brushed a hard spot on her breast with her upper arms while vacuuming. She was tremendously frightened, and yet always funny and brave through all of it.

The first round of treatment wasn't so bad, and they thought she had gotten it. She was cancer free for two years, and then it came back. And then it came back again.

She died at home, with her husband and daughter holding her hands.

On the surface, Karen and I didn't appear likely to become good friends. She was eight years older than I am, and a conservative Baptist. Her life revolved around her home and her church. She didn't breastfeed her daughter and didn't get why I thought it was such a big deal ;-) She was very shy and reserved, while I am an extrovert. She took he time getting to know people, and could seem aloof. She was very tidy and organized, and I am messy. She never got an e-mail account! In fact, as far as I know, she never once got online!

But over the years, she became family to me. She cared for my children while I worked. Her daughter and mine became best of friends. We planned birthday parties together, and spent many nights sitting on her front lawn or mine watching our children play until the sun went down. She sewed Halloween costumes for my children and my sister's children, and she was the one I turned to when I needed J's hair "done up" for a fancy occasion. She was better at it than I was. When I couldn't get a feverish E. to take medicine, I would take him next door to Karen's and she would whisper something in his ear and smile at him and he would gulp it down. He loved "Miss Karen" like a second mama.

And now she's gone. I am heartbroken. It's so wrong for someone that good and honest and pure to be taken from all that mattered to her - her child and husband. She so wanted to see her child grow up.

Her husband told me how happy it made Karen to see that after I went thru my rough patch a few years back - with the divorce, and having to move away from the house next door - I had come thru on the other side happy and healthy and loved by a Good Man. She got to meet Jon several times and she gave him her stamp of approval.

Karen didn't have many close friends. She was picky. But my sister and I were privileged to know her and love her. Now I will make sure that for the rest of her life, Karen's daughter will have women in her life who DID know her mom - who can tell her of Karen's sly, wicked humor; her selfless love; her ability to make a house a home, and her incredible bravery when life handed her a cruel fate.

I knew she was going to die. But I thought she would be here for at least a while longer. Her sudden death was a hard surprise for me. I cannot believe she's gone. I wish I had told her more clearly how much she meant to me and our family before it was too late. I won't make that mistake again.


Leslie said...

I'm sorry. :-(

nobody said...

sorry for your loss

billie said...

What a beautiful tribute, Katie. I'll bet she knows.

ErinOrtlund said...

I'm so sorry to hear of the death of your friend. I know her daughter will appreciate having you in her life.

Smokey said...

I'm so sorry for you and her family. Sad story.

I'm glad you got to know her and I'm sure she felt the same about you.

Dewi said...

Since you write beautifully and are so expressive with your words her daughter would probably cherish a personal note from you with the sentiments you have shared with us.

uumomma said...

i love this poem... it has always brought so much comfert to me, i hope it brings some to you:

Gone from My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side
spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and
starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty
and strength. I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where
the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!"

"Gone where?"

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in
mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and
she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her
destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the
moment when someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout: "Here she comes!"

And that is dying.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely obituary for your friend. I hope her little girl gets to read it.
becky mom of willie

JCB said...

Wishing that I had a magic wand right about now.So very sorry...

mamalife said...

I am so sorry to hear of her death. I have tears in my eyes, mostly for her daughter at losing her mama and for her mama losing the chance to finish raising her daughter. I am certain she would feel the greatest gift you can give her is just what you said, to make certain that those who knew her share those memories with her daughter as she continues to grow up.

Anonymous said...

Karen was a woman who won my heart immediately. Watching Karen care for your chidlren as though they were her own was comforting to me. She was a very special loving person and Caitlin, her daughter, was blessed to have such a wonderful mother for 12 years. Mama.