Monday, August 8, 2011

My Michelle

Monday morning brought the most awful news.  My dear friend Michelle's husband told me of her death last week.  Michelle had spent more than a year battling colon cancer.  The last time I talked to her, which was a few months ago, she was on the mend.
She spoke of wanting help writing about her journey, and all the miraculous things she felt and saw happening during her battle.  She spoke of the gratitude she felt for the team of professionals who were helping her through each step -- all her doctors, the surgeons, the people at the cancer center who administered her chemo and radiation.  Her eyes were full of wonder when she told me about the convent full of nuns in Texas, I think, who she had never met, who were praying for her daily.  She talked about what to do next, and how she wanted to somehow give back.  She planned to do the traveling she'd been neglecting all these years, especially returning to England, Germany, and Austria where she had family, and where she had lived when she was young.

My phone calls and emails to Michelle have gone unanswered all summer long.  I told myself it was nothing to worry about, and dreamed of her off spending time with her family in Wyoming, or indeed traveling in Europe, making up for lost time.  I wrote again last week to invite her for coffee on a weekday morning, since our boys were back at school.  I now know that was the day of her funeral.

Michelle was one of my oldest friends in Colorado.  She and I met at the pool the summer we both moved here, nine years ago.  I struck up a conversation with her when I saw her reading an issue of Victoria magazine -- one of my absolute favorites at the time, and not one you see often around here!  Since we have sons close in age we found we had a lot to talk about.  She was an artist, talented and listed, and loved antiques, and enjoyed thrift stores, and loved to try new restaurants.  She was a very good friend.  It was Michelle who I entrusted my son to stay with when my mother had a heart attack and I had to be out of state, with my husband working nights.  She was the one I could always count on to encourage my art, and who would roll up her sleeves and try new things, like mosaic, with me.
Watercolor by Michelle of her son and her neice

Michelle was a faithful reader of this blog.  I wrote about her sometimes, too,like about her wrangler toad, and my late kitty's love of her.  But I never wrote about her battle with cancer -- barely even talked about it to anyone -- because she was intensely private about it.  I only found out about her diagnosis when she was about to begin chemo, after the surgery, and she shared the news reluctantly.  Her husband just told me that while she was bravely speaking of the future, she had undergone 4 surgeries this year alone.  She found out she was terminal about 3 weeks before she passed away, and didn't want to tell anyone.

It doesn't make sense to me that Michelle could be gone.  Not Michelle.  I would sometimes joke to other friends that Michelle was the subject of that old Carpenter's song, Close to You.   "Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?  Just like me, they long to be close to you...  Picture Snow White singing with the birds in the forest.  It almost isn't an exaggeration
Michelle's puppy

'Lest you think I'm just saying these things about her because she has died, let me make it clear: I am not romanticizing her.  I would not describe any of my other friends -- as much as I care for them -- this way.  Michelle was one of a kind.  I have never in my life met or known anyone who loved beauty as much as she; who celebrated it, spread it, and created it.
Photo by Michelle
Michelle wanted everyone to be happy, and if she found out someone wasn't she went out of her way to help.  She was so beautiful, and so gentle.  She could wake up one morning, get out her paints, and create a mural on her wall inspired by the image on a card she'd received.  She could throw out a handful of wildflower seeds and a few weeks later an amazing garden would grow.  I think they sprouted out of the ground to in search of her.

Michelle was 42 years old. I cannot believe she is gone.  She has gone ahead of her cherished son and her best friend, the husband she's spent more than 20 years with, and both her parents, and all her brothers.  I see her everywhere I look: in the pictures she painted me, and the flowering plants she gave me, and in everything she loved about Colorado.  I am devastated that I never had the chance to say goodbye to her, or tell her in no uncertain terms how much she inspired me, and how much I loved her.  Oh, my friends, I am just sick!

16 comments :

LuLu Kellogg said...

My heart is just breaking for you for the loss of your friend Laurie...this was a lovely post you wrote remembering her.

Love,
LuLu~*xoxo

Lorraine said...

What a wonderful tribute to your friendship. Thank you for sharing her creative soul with us. So sorry for your loss.

Lovelinest said...

Beautiful tribute to your friend! Sounds like she was just as lucky to have you as you were to have her. I'm sure having a friend like you, that cherished her and held her in such high esteem, was one of her greatest gifts. I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm glad you had such an amazing friend touch your life.

barb cabot said...

I am so sorry to read the news about the loss of your dear friend. You have paid her a great tribute by writing of your loving friendship. I pray for her family now. She is in God's arms and is painfree. I know that is not totally soothing to hear in the midst of your pain but I believe she is in a better place. I'm sure your friendship was as valuable and important to her as hers was to you. I'm am so sorry for your loss.

Suz said...

Oh, Laurie,
I am so sorry to hear about your friend and do understand your sadness at not being able to say goodbye to Michelle. People do cancer in their own unique way. Being such a giving person, I wonder if she thought she was sparing you all the pain. She sounds like she truly was one of a kind. Her pictures are lovely...I especially like the one of her two kids. You really honored her with your words and showing us her stunning art.
What can I say, except that I am so sorry and I will hold you tenderly in my heart as you grieve your beloved friend.
Love and hugs,
Suz

miss lynn said...

i am
so so
sorry,
laurie.

so sorry.

thetruevine said...

:-(

Jingle said...

I am so sorry for your loss! I understand.

Wendy said...

My heart goes out to you for the loss of such a dear friend.....may you find peace in this hard time......

Angela said...

I too, am sorry for your loss, Laurie! Michelle sounds like a beautiful woman! At least she is at peace now, and will have no pain. Hugs to you and to her family. She sounds well loved!

Gabriela said...

I am so sorry about your loss......she seemed like such a wonderful lady....you will think of her often, and in time, in those memories there will be comfort....

pam said...

My heart aches for you. I know that feeling of unfinished business. I think sometimes when people have beengiven that terminal diagnosis they want to protect their children and they don't want everyone coming in throngs for the "last" visit. I also think it sort of puts it off for them as well. They can just go on with " I'm going to see Laurie in a few weeks like we planned" It must be the hardest to accept that you will only be here a few weeks. You know she valued your friendship and even if she didn't get to "say" goodbye she treasured you like you do her. Hang in there dear, you have a whole community of people you have never met, but are here to support you!

Tami Hacker said...

Laurie,

I am so sorry for your the loss of your friend.

Your tribute to Michelle touches our hearts - she must have been a beautiful soul.

Peace, sympathy & God's comfort to you & her family.

Love, Tami

Bunty said...

How very sad and shocking. Your tribute was beautiful and a lovely way to mark your friendship.

Barbara

Mina said...

Oh Laurie, I am so very sorry for your loss. It is just heartbreaking. This tribute to Michelle's life is so beautiful and tender it brought tears to my eyes. She was such a warrior to the end. All my love to you, my sweet.

Jann said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I know how you feel. Years ago, one of my best friends in the whole world was killed in a car accident. I hadn't talked to her in awhile and didn't have a chance to tell her how much I loved her, how much she meant to me...or to say goodbye. Your friend will live on in your memories and in your heart. God Bless . . .