Yesterday, we went to a service for a friend who passed away on October 7. She was 37. She had leukemia.
She was a fighter, this friend; a straight-between-the-eyes, no-nonsense woman who took no prisoners, as that great saying goes, and yet with no contradiction at all was capable of great love, laughter and spirit.
She’d been fighting this disease with all of her strength, ever positive, through a year or so of days that were very good and days that were very not. Then she was back in the hospital, still fighting.
And one day her boyfriend posted on Facebook that she wasn’t expected to make it another day.
People sent their love, prayers and positive vibes. She hung on.
And then, it was over.
That funeral home was packed. Extra chairs had to be found and there were still people standing all over the hall.
It wasn’t easy to experience, but it was powerful and lovely, and something I’m glad I didn’t miss. While we were handed a card full of Psalms and route responses, all carefully genericized to offend the least, a rather cool Native American man led the service.
This meant we got sage burning, people sharing their thoughts, and the final thought that Native Americans look at death a little differently.
While completely cognizant of loss and pain and suffering from those of us left behind, he had a more joyous view of life after death than we were perhaps accustomed to.
“When you see a flower,” he told us, “You’ll see her. When you see a lake or an ocean, she’ll be with you. Turn around–she’s there.”
That felt good. That person in the box at the front of the room–that wasn’t her. The person within us–that was.
Human beings are truly amazing. Sometimes you wonder how we survive with so much stacked against us. Our cells are riddled with ridiculous amounts of disease waiting to take over. Treatments for those diseases fail. Our good days can be very good but our bad days can be horrid.
But there’s something to the power of positive thought. Call it good vibes, call it prayer–call it love.
Yes, there are people, even loved ones, who will scoff at you for what they call being foolishly optimistic, for holding out hope, for thinking there’s still a chance.
But until that last breath is breathed, I believe there’s still hope. There are survivors right now that will tell you the same thing.
This is also why even posting something such as “You’re in my thoughts and prayers EVERY SINGLE DAY, and I’m always sending you warm thoughts your way,” on a Facebook page matters, even if the person doesn’t see it with their own eyes, because it gets through just the same.
Yes, it’s terribly hard. Yes, it’s heartbreaking. We all know life is terminal. We all have our own ways of dealing with grief, of getting away from the pain of seeing someone disappear.
So what. Our loved ones deserve our best while we’re all here together.
My friend had an amazing amount of never-ending support and love right up to the end–and beyond, judging from that full funeral home.
So to all those still hanging on, still helping their loved ones fight, this is what I think: Don’t give up too soon. Keep up the positive fight. It really does make a difference, for you as well as for them.
And I wouldn’t want to be given up on too soon, myself. Would you?
Ribbon found here.
2 thoughts on “I lost a friend to leukemia”
The Native American view of “death” is exactly like that of non-religious Zen. I won’t die. I won’t go anywhere. I’ll be here. But don’t ask me anything. I won’t answer..
I’ve long appreciated secular Zen’s simplicity. “It’s all one” makes sense.