I lost a friend to leukemia

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.

A few more thoughts