OOOPS! August 5th was National Friendship Day: My Friend Alice

NOTE: I somehow thought National Friendship Day was the end of August. I was wrong. So while this posting is late, friendship is always something you can celebrate, any time!

A strange feeling came over me as I read the letter folded inside the book, The Legacy of Kathleen Angel, * that my old friend Alice just self-published with the help of my new friend Krista and me, dated only one day before Alice’s heart surgery. She had actually emailed me a couple of weeks earlier to explain about a heart condition that had taken the life of her father and sister, possibly because they did not have the surgery. Her surgeon had told Alice that she had a strong heart and the procedure would repair the problem. Alice and her husband (a physician) had decided that walking around with the possibility of an aneurysm at any time was too risky, even though she did not feel sick or weak.

I also spoke with Alice by phone just a few days before her actual surgery, asking her to have her daughter Alissa email me after the operation, and Alice agreed.  (Alice and her husband had moved to Oregon several years before to be close to their daughter and their then young grandchildren.) Alice described herself in that last email as the “Energizer Bunny” and was eager to have the operation so she could go back to her busy, hectic life, which she loved. She was also a fearless traveler, lived according to her somewhat bizarre beliefs, and never looked back with regrets. In her Linked In Profile, Alice had written “multi-tasker” under her name, and it was a perfect description of my friend.

When no email came from Alissa the day after the operation, I called Alice’s husband, Joe, and left him a voicemail. Later that night, he called to tell me that the surgery was a success, but after the breathing tube was removed, she was unable to breathe on her own and died. I was stunned, because her email, phone call, and letter inside the book were so positive. I felt sure she would survive.

In fact, I had started her hand-quilted tote bag, a gift for using our self-publishing book service, and the day after I found out she died, I worked for about six hours on the tote bag with her favorite colors of blue and green, finishing it the next morning, and mailing it to her daughter with all the wonderful letters Alice had send me after her move to Oregon. Since Alissa has the same first initial as her mom’s, she wrote me a note thanking me for the letters and the tote bag, which she wears because it makes her feel closer to her mom. I was touched beyond words.

Here is the note inside Alice’s novel, The Legacy of Kathleen Angel, which had just been listed on Amazon: *

So tomorrow (April 3rd) is the big day, and I guess I am ready. As ready as I will ever be. Everyone I talk with has either had the surgery, or knows someone who had the surgery, and so everyone is reassuring that, even though you will feel like you were run over by a Mack truck, most likely you will survive.

Reading that part of the letter, after I knew she did not survive her surgery, blew me away. I have been thinking about death a lot, especially since the death last year of my slightly older brother, only 20 months my senior. I could be next! After all, my mother died at 66, my father at 75, and my older sister at 69, and I am beyond 75. There was a life lesson here!

Alice went into her operation in a positive frame of mind and died without a long, painful illness. She actually had almost no symptoms. Maybe that’s a good thing. She was surrounded by her family and had lived a full life. I will miss her presence in my life, but I am glad she did not suffer. As I ponder my own mortality, I think about writer Alice Walker’s story, “A Good Death,” which I heard her read in person many years ago. The story was about an old woman who invited all her friends and family members to her home, when she knew she was dying. She gave away much of what she owned and said good-bye to everyone and died peacefully at home, what Walker described as a good death. I don’t think of this term as an oxymoron, but rather a wish that I would also experience such a peaceful way to let go of life and embrace whatever, if anything, comes next.

My good friend’s death was a wake-up call for me to live in the moment, be present, and cherish friends and family. These may be clichés for some people, but for me these are what I want to focus on as I live each day with compassion for the planet, others, and myself. I also want to focus on what is important in my day-to-day activities of life, not how much more I can buy or need, but what I can give back of myself to make a difference in the world. That may be idealistic, but in my “dotage,” I choose to own my feelings as being valid, and Alice was a good role model, because that’s how she lived. I feel extremely fortunate to have been her friend and will miss her everyday joy for living, which I hope I can emulate.

P.S. After writing this, I started reading Alice’s book, and it is about a spirit in the town we both lived, with a slight name change. Reading it gave me a sense of nostalgia. Even more interesting, I think, is that her book came to me after she died, as though her spirit sent it!

(I was unable to scan her cover on my scanner, so this version is from Amazon Library and difficult to see. Apologies. The story iis a little spooky and the cover is, too!)

*Available from Amazon.com. I will review it soon. It is self-published through Create Space, owned by Amazon. If you are interested in publishing through Create Space, please contact me at menupause.info@gmail.com.

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