Two flowers on the plant you gave me are about to bloom. It’s been so long since a flower has appeared that I wondered if it would ever happen again. I wondered if I had somehow done something wrong. I don’t think either of us realized how important this plant, so small when you gave it to me, would become. I still smile when I think of it. It came in a basket of plants that had been gifted to you and you didn’t want it so you gave to me because my roommate was having a party. It’s been almost three years now. Three years. I’m not the same girl I was then, but I still carry so much of you with me. I bought myself a ukulele that year as a late birthday present, weeks after I found out you were gone, because it was on your bucket list to learn to play. I now know that part of my ache to go to France, to walk through Paris, is because you loved it so much and never got to see it one last time like you wanted. I have a bookcase that I painted in the same blue that was present all over your house. I painted the fleur-de-lis along the sides. Every time I see a fleur-de-lis I think of you and smile. I miss Zoe-dog and I still wish that there was some way I could have taken her. I knew so much about you and yet I know what I knew only scratched the surface. I knew your husband committed suicide a year before we met and just months before you were diagnosed. I knew that you never really knew why. I knew that on that morning we cleaned your attic you were quietly hoping the reason would be found there. I knew how much you loved your little granddaughter Kate and how it broke your heart how little you got to see her, even though she lived so close. I never voiced it to you, but this always made me so angry. I knew how much you loved that she would grow up knowing that her red hair was from you.
I learned so much about determination and what it is to be strong from you. You wanted so badly to live and fought so hard and I never told you how much I admired you for that. How proud I was. There were hard days. Days when I was sad and scared and worried. Days when there were hospital visits. I wouldn’t show it though–if you could manage to get up every day through the pain and the sickness and the exhaustion then I could be positive for you and do my best to help you through it. I am still learning that strength is not pretending that you are not sad and scared and worried…but showing up and choosing to have faith and hope in spite of those feelings. I think part of me always thought (hoped) that you would pull through until the day I found out you didn’t. Grief is a funny (ahem, unfunny) thing. Everything will be fine for days, weeks, months and then suddenly, randomly, like today, I feel it so powerfully. Sometimes, I think that I’m not allowed to feel your loss so strongly. I’m not family and we were in each other’s lives a relatively short time…but knowing you changed me profoundly and for the better. Every time I hear “cancer” my heart hurts. In this month when gratitude is given and shared in abundance, I am grateful that our paths crossed. Peace be with you always.