EVERYTIME WE SAY GOODBYE
Yesterday afternoon I was getting ready to go to an honest to God, big deal Oscar party with red carpets and media lines. Having never done this before I was quite excited. I love to dress up! Love it. I love to wear a gown and high heels and do the hair and make up. It's a lot of work, but once it's done it's so fun to sashay through a hotel lobby or up a flight of stairs workin' it, feeling the heads turn.
This party came up as a total surprise and I have been sick so I was planning on laying low, like on the couch, to watch the Oscars. Or, to be completely honest, to channel surf through the entire broadcast. But I've always been that person who repents later if we're talking about a "how often do you get to do this opportunity" so I propped myself up with cold and flu pills and got ready in shifts. You know - take a shower, lay down and rest; blow dry hair, lay down and rest, etc.
I had just completed make up and was resting before I did hair when my phone rang. It was about 4:15 and I needed to be out the door by 4:30, but when I heard Meg's voice my schedule went out the window.
"I'm in the car going to my mom's," her voice cracked. "She's not dead, but she didn't wake up this morning and her blood pressure is really low. I'm so sorry to call you right before you're going out to have fun, but I just wanted you to know." And then she broke down.
Meg's mom Sue has been battling cancer for about five years and it was a surprise that she made it through the holidays so I had been waiting for this call. Even when you know it's time and she'll be at peace now and there will be no more pain and all the rest of the things that people say; even when you know those things are true it doesn't mean that your heart doesn't literally ache at having to say goodbye. And I could hear Meg's heart hurting through the phone so I put everything on hold and we cried together.
Meg and I have been friends for 15 years and I was lucky enough to be folded into her family. I know what an important part of Meg's life her mother has been. She raised her six kids as a single mother and she made those children the focus of her life. When Meg and I had dinner not long ago and I commented that I was surprised at how well she was handling everything, she said that emotionally she was holding herself in check because she's got a family to take care of and her mom was still here. What she was mostly feeling was angry that her children would grow up not knowing their grandma, that her mom wouldn't be there for her to call when she needed to talk to that person who loves you for just being you, like a mom does. She said that when the time arrived she would take her space and fall apart.
And it was that time. I stayed on the phone and we talked about when Gary was dying and we would make the drive to his house thinking it was time. And then it wouldn't be. And then it was and after months and months of lingering he left. We talked about how even when you think you're ready for someone to go, you're really never ready. Death is such a final Goodbye. We can't even know with any certainty that it's a "See ya later," although I believe it's more like that. I also like to think that it's the beginning of the next thing, whatever that is, but my friend Patrick would say that it's a story I tell myself to give living and dying some kind of meaning.
But even if it is the end of this thing and the beginning of the next, it's still really painful. At this point in my life I've lost so many people that I love, and it never hurts less. The only thing I do know for sure is that life goes on - so as long as you're alive you've got to do the living.
That is why, after we had a good cry and Meg was feeling a little more centered, I told her I loved her and hung up the phone. Then I went into the bathroom and re-did my make up. And I did the hair. And I put on the gown and I sashayed out the door with swollen eyes and a runny nose, and I had a really good time at the Oscar parties.
And all fabulous like I had a gin and tonic - Sue's signature cocktail - and made a toast to her life with much love.