Saying Goodbye

Yesterday was a rough one for me…I shed a lot of tears of the ugly-cry variety after work. Why? As seems to be a running theme in my life, cancer took a friend from us far too soon, and it sucks royally. Colleen was a childhood friend from my hometown. We went to high school together, may have attended the occasional party together, whether it was at an unsanctioned bash at my place or a party in the bush. But then, I left…and she stayed, creating an amazing life there as the biggest cheerleader of our community…of her family…and of her friends. Her passing impacted me, probably harder than I expected it to because although we were friends in high school, we didn’t see each other very often in the years that followed, other than during those intermittent times that I went back home to visit. The last time that I saw her was in 2017 at our annual Trout Festival celebration, an event that she was instrumental in planning. And although we’d messaged periodically since then, I hadn’t seen her since. But that last time, she grabbed me in her typical bear-hug fashion, flashed her megawatt smile and said, ‘Well, if it isn’t Holly Wood’, her nickname for me since I was 16 years of age…to which I always responded, ‘Well if it isn’t Edith’. It really didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing…she always made me feel that I mattered…always.

Now, as I’ve said, we didn’t keep in close contact, other than the odd text or message over the years and feeling as I do today, I can only image how devastating her loss will be for those closest to her. There are no words to describe losing somebody who has had such a monumental impact on the people that she loved. But, because of Colleen and her family, I learned some very valuable life lessons that I have carried with me all these years.

The first one dates back a minute or two…actually, they all do. That said, one evening years ago, her mother, Lorraine had come home after a long day at the office and needed to breathe. So, she decided to take a nap on the couch. Colleen and I headed off to Johnny’s, the local confectionary, to pick something up for her…I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that Colleen wanted to make her mother feel better. Diane, her younger sister, thought she would help out as well and started loading up the dishwasher. So off we went, made our purchases and headed back to their house. When we opened the door, there were waves of soap suds cascading down the stairs…a scene right out of a Home Alone movie…probably one of the funniest things that I have ever seen. It seems that while Diane wanted to help out with the dishwasher duties, she wasn’t quite up to speed on the product to use in said dishwasher…so, she filled it with liquid soap rather than the dry powder. And voilà, Lorraine had a kitchen brimming with soap suds and bubbles. What hit me the most wasn’t so much the fact that we were bent over in laughter, but that Lorraine was just smiling her way through the clean up on Aisle 5. Despite the fact that she was exhausted after a tough day at the office, she couldn’t get mad at her little girl because she had only been trying to help. I remember thinking that day that I hoped that when I was a mother, I would have the same grace that she did when my own children made a mistake or two. It hasn’t always been perfect, but this memory has helped guide me more than I can count when I was on the verge of losing my ever-loving mind.

The next life lesson was probably one of the most important that I’ve learned over the years, in large part because I have had to deal with death in my life countless times over the years. A couple of years following the soap suds incident, Diane, Colleen’s youngest sister, was killed in a helicopter crash. Their family was absolutely gutted, and people came in droves to support Lorraine and her children. Every time that I think back on my reaction to Colleen’s pain, I cringe…as in a full-body spasm. I can remind myself until the cows come home that I was young and inexperienced in dealing with that level of hurt, but it doesn’t make my stupidity any easier to digest. When we gathered at their home, I went into her bedroom…she was wrapped up in another friend’s arms and the pain was just radiating off her body…it was absolutely filling up the room. And what did I do in all my wisdom…I tried to change the subject as we have a tendency to do in difficult situations…and I began talking about getting braces. The ‘WTF’ look that came over her face is something that I will likely never forget. But the lesson learned is that it wasn’t up to me to try to shift her pain or change the subject so that it was less uncomfortable in the room for me or anybody else. And the next day and every day after that, I worked at not being that person that doesn’t show up when somebody is hurting like that. Years later, we talked about it…funnily enough, Colleen didn’t remember my reaction to her pain…most likely because she was in so much pain. But Lorraine, true to form, said that everybody reacts in their own way to tragic events, and when you know better, you do better. I appreciated her grace once again, but it didn’t make me feel better about my reaction to a friend’s suffering. Since then, Colleen has been s a constant reminder that I need to do better and to show up for people when they need it most.

My last lesson came when she was a new mother to Kyle, her first born. She was in love with that boy! Having zero desire at that point in my life to become a mother, I didn’t get the whole, ‘My world revolves around this little cherub’ thing. But hers did. We sat in her backyard, while she cooed with her baby boy and giggled along with him. Her love radiated out of her pores for that child and it filled up the yard…and I remembered being absolutely in awe of their connection. I became a mother 5 ½ years later and that experience with Colleen has been a frequent reminder of the importance of bonding with my children. It served me well over the years as I worked through many parenting classes and date nights with my girls to ensure that we have a strong relationship.

Now, as I look back on her impact on my life, I cannot begin to imagine what she has meant to the people that she was closest to…her family…her best friends…her colleagues. Their loss is unimaginable. And I know that when she was diagnosed, her support came from every corner to hold her up and to show her how much she was loved. True to form, her last message to me was that she was overwhelmed by all the love and support that she was receiving and in her own words, ‘It’s just hard being the receiver and not the giver.’ That was sooooo Colleen. She made a life out of giving and I consider myself blessed to be on the receiving end of those lessons. Her legacy will live on in her acts of kindness, in the lessons that she shared with those around her and in the memories that she created with each person whose lives she touched.

So, today is not a great day…but I’ll remember her big bear hug, her megawatt smile and her greeting every time she saw me, ‘Well if it isn’t Holly Wood’. Edith, I’ll see you again.

13 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

  1. So sorry to hear about this! I am dealing with Stage 4 Lung Cancer myself for the last 6yrs and just last week was able to give a eulogy for one of my best friends who past after a 3yr battle with cancer himself. I like to remember that, “It’s not goodbye. It’s…I’ll see you later!” Lifting you a and all who knew your friend up in prayer right now. 🙏🏻 May the peace of Jesus Christ wash over you and bring you comfort and peace!

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  2. My dad just shared this with me. I just wanted to say it was a beautiful and wanted to thank you for sharing such lovely memories of my mom.

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  3. Well Hollywood you nailed it! Thanks so much for your memories and kind words. Our house, family and community is going to be so different. We will do our best as a family to make her proud. Thanks for the tribute. Kent ❤️

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  4. I’m sorry for your loss. She sounds like a beautiful soul. Although it hurts, I hope you are able to find peace knowing that she is finally without pain and watching over you now!😇🤗

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