Last week I lost a friend, a good friend who was, for a season, my writing partner. I met Amy at the horse barn where I worked and her daughter took riding lessons. I never taught her daughter on a regular basis, but I always enjoyed teaching her when I had the opportunity to give her a make-up lesson or an extra lesson in return for her help.
Amy was always outgoing and exuberant.She had surgery and we all thought she was doing okay and then they diagnosed a rare sarcoma and gave her a very slim chance of living. She went to Sloan-Kettering for treatment which was then followed up at Duke. She researched her cancer, she followed every regimen, she went to battle with it. And for awhile she was in remission.
About that time I quit my job to devote more time to writing. I found that Amy was also a writer. She joined Winston-Salem Writers with me, and attended programs when she could.
She wrote about her illness, heartrending stories about shaving her head, talking with her family. She also worked on an very good mystery she had started earlier. We would take turns reading aloud in my living room. Her hair was growing back, she was hopeful.She and her husband built and sold houses–not possible in 2008. She went to work full time and found the energy to engage in fundraising efforts–a play, a race car etc for cancer research.
And then it was back. Amy was never in denial, but never giving in. She knew, she told me, that now it would keep coming back. We would meet when we could–run into each other at horse shows or at the barn. She always had a hug for me and wanted to know how I was and what was going on in my life. I would ask and she would tell me about her health.
Later we would bring a meal or I stopped at Hospice for a visit. Even when she could hardly breathe, she was directing the conversation, making sure everyone was included. Always, she wanted to give me a hug.
They told her she wouldn’t live until Christmas–2013. She set her goals to survive that long and did. But she made sure to do her Christmas shopping early.
In February she had radiation just to shrink the tumors enough that she could eat. The day we saw her she and Brian had had a bizarre experience. The radiologist asked her if she had thought about what she was going to wear. Startled, she told the doctor that she had planned to be cremated. Amy thought perhaps the doctors thought she was in denial–she was not.
She left Hospice to watch her son compete in tumbling in Texas or to watch her daughter’s soccer game.She just did. And she made it to her daughter’s horse show in March and again in May and again in late May.She stayed at home when she could.
The celebration of her life was last Saturday. She had planned it, the way she organized everything in her life. The large room was almost full–there were family members, fellow soccer-moms (her Yah-Yahs), church friends, friends of her daughter and son, barn moms and more. And all of us counted her as a good friend. The preacher asked everyone who had been kissed by Amy to stand up–it was most of the room. Because we were all her good friends, that’s who she was.
She was twenty years younger than I and lived her life to the fullest, but it was all too short. I grieve for her family and I mourn. I miss her already.But I know that all of us are better for having known her.