It’s been nearly eight years ago since a dear friend of mine died at the age of 41 from aggressive metastatic breast cancer. I met her early in 2006 on a training walk. She had been diagnosed several months earlier, at the age of 37.
We spent some face-to-face time together from time-to-time, but most of our friendship was spent talking on the telephone. There was an instant connection between us, whether we saw one another at events, had lunch together, or talked for minutes or hours.
I was 13 years older than she was, but Kim was wise beyond her years, and I learned so much from her.
As the time came closer to losing her battle, I remember the weekend that Kim, her husband and young son, sister and brother-in-law, and mother went to the coast together to take Dad’s ashes to scatter them into the ocean. Kim’s Mom had kept the urn in the bedroom for the 10 years, but as Kim told it to me, “She needs to let him go as she faces losing another family member.”
It broke my heart on so many levels. I was glad that they were able to do this as a family. It certainly marked a moment of reality in their lives. It was a remarkably bittersweet moment of love and family.
It serves as a reminder to me (to us all?) that family get-togethers are important to take when they are joyous memory builders. The same can be said for friendships.
How often are we “too busy” to make time for friends and family? How often do we simply NOT take the time for those we say are important to us? How often can you “not afford” to share in moments that may cost nothing more than time and willingness?
At the point that I met Kim, I had not dealt with the loss of too many people, other than those who were quite old. Losing young people I knew personally was new for me. I could not imagine having lost a child or a sister.
I was as involved as I could be toward her end-of-life. It was not easy, but I learned the pain of life and of death having gone through it with this woman and her family, all whom I loved dearly.
Since Kim’s death in 2010, I have lost some significant people in my life, ranging in age from their 20s to 80s. Each is loved as a child, parent, friend, friend and more. It escapes no one. I have also know many other people in my life who has shared their heartaches of losing with me.
There is universal advice that I have heard throughout the years since Kim has passed…
Spend time together, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem to be…not just once a year on an obligatory holiday. Whether by phone, through regular mail, or face-to-face, take time to laugh and cry with one another. Let one another know your secrets. Make memories. Include, do not exclude. Ensure that they feel loved.
Not everyone has as a family that was as intact as what I experienced with Kim and her family. I was lucky to experience it and to be included in the family as a friend and extended family member.
We can choose friends to be the family we do not have. We can build on what we do have with family members who are important to us.
The important thing to remember is to get-together. Laugh. Make memories. Love one another. Take time. Show love. Create. And, please…
Do it before “losing another…”
Photo credit: (Photo 1) My photo of Kim carrying the strength banner at the 2008 Seattle Breast Cancer 3-Day. (Photo 2) 2009 photo shared at her memorial. Kim passed away in May 2010, just three days before her 42nd birthday.