Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Heart Is Broken

You'll have to forgive me if this post is a little disjointed; it will likely be full of half-formed thoughts and might be tough to read.

One of my oldest friends is named John.  I knew him from the time I was about 20 or so, and I'm 43 now. He's the kind of guy who does things for his friends because that's what friends do; for example when Josie's front steps needed to be fixed, he swooped in with some PT lumber and a nail gun and made her a new set of steps in about 20 minutes.  He drove from the North Shore of Boston to suburban Providence, RI, so he could personally inspect a house I was considering buying - the very house I'm sitting in right now in fact.

When I met John he was still going out with his high school sweetheart (let's call her S.), notwithstanding the fact that he'd been through high school and college.  When anyone would ask when he would marry her, his standard joke would be to respond "May.  As in, 'may the day never come.'"

But the day did finally come, and John eventually asked his girlfriend to be his wife, and she agreed, with shining eyes and an optimism for the future.

I was privileged to attend his wedding.  John and I were charter members of the poker game that is currently being hosted by the Very Josies, so John and S. sat all the poker peeps together at the same table.  Somewhere - I've been looking for it all night - is a picture of all of us with a hand of cards, each of us in our Sunday best, looking at the other's hand. It was a funny scene that required us to break out a deck of cards at a wedding reception, to the consternation of the other attendees.

After the wedding, the two of them set about the business of starting and raising a family.  It was not an easy thing, based on some health issues that S. had, but they eventually had a daughter, E., and a son, J., shortly thereafter. And being a husband, and now a dad, John dropped quietly out of poker night, and though I spoke to him somewhat infrequently after that, I still considered him a close friend.

Shortly after J. was born, S. was diagnosed with leukemia. 

She went through a round of chemo, had a stem cell transplant that failed to eradicate the leukemia from her body, had to endure a second round of chemo, and fought a case of pneumonia so severe that they had to place her in a medically-induced coma to give her exhausted body a chance of fighting off the infection.

It was a gallant fight from which she never backed down, but not two hours ago I discovered that some little while ago, S. lost her fight, and died. 

And right now my head is swimming with emotion, for John, who I don't think ever loved anyone else in his entire life; for their daughter who will miss her mommy for the rest of her days; and for their son who is too young to remember his mother except perhaps as a far-off memory of his first grief.

It makes my complaining about mall walkers and Jay Leno seem petty and small, and it makes my heart heavy.

S. and I shared a running joke - we both fancied ourselves masters of the Scrabble board, and we threatened each other with the pasting of a lifetime that we both believed we could administer.  But we never quite got around to it. 

I'll miss her - but in truth, my heart is heaviest for those who are left behind. It's very sad, and I feel like my heart might just break in pieces.


  1. :( Yeah....I can't believe it. And I also CANNOT believe she passed away a month ago and we didn't know it.

    Poor Bubba....poor everyone. :(

  2. Poor Bubba....poor everyone. :(

    Well put. A very sad day.

  3. Sorry to hear. There never seem to be words that are adequate at times like these.

    Unfortunately, it seems that about the time we turn 40 or so we graduate into that stage of life when our peers begin to pass away. Aside from the sadness, it also is a cruel reminder that we are no longer at that blissful young age when we seem impervious to almost everything and death is just, in most cases, an obscure notion that happens to older people.

    Take care today, good buddy.

  4. My heartfelt sympathies to you and your friend for the loss. Only advice I can give is just cherish the memories you have of her.

  5. One of my closest friends was diagnosed with cancer after three years of remission. Last month he went thru the surgical part, and a week from tomorrow he begins radiation and chemo.

    "Cancer sucks," was his reaction.

    It does indeed.

    I'm very sorry to learn you've lost someone who was so important to you. May the coming days and weeks bring healing and fond memories of a life you touched.

  6. Thanks guys - you're very kind.

  7. Gary - I thought I left you a message yesterday, but it hasn't appeared, so I'm clearly wrong.

    I'm very sorry for your and your friend's loss. I'm also very sad that you weren't able to join your friend and his family at the funeral.

  8. Cranky, you've hit on the hard part. Both Gary and I would've lept at the chance to offer consolation to John at her memorial service. Obv he had far bigger things on his mind than calling his old poker game but we have plenty of mutual friends.