I met her when I was 14. She was my boyfriend’s little sister but she was nice and friendly and she became my friend. We became family when I married her brother and when it was time for her to get married I was her matron of honor. She walked happily down the aisle with Eric to You Are The Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder. I will never forget it because it was so like her doing life her way. Years later I found a designer who made a necklace out of the song and sent it her. She sent back a note that she couldn’t believe I had remembered. She would invite me to absolutely every family event they had. I remember one conversation:
“Umm, thanks but I think it would be awkward to go consider I’m no longer married to your brother.”
“Did you divorce me?”
“I didn’t divorce you either. You’re my sister-in-law and the mother of my nephew and my niece and you are invited to all family functions.”
Then we’d laugh and tell secrets that only friends that know each other well can tell about things that are really none of our business.
After a three year battle with cancer I got the call from my son that Cathy was being sent home to hospice. I contacted my mother-in-law and asked if I could go and see Cathy, understanding that they have a big family and I didn’t want to intrude. She said of course I could come. I walked into a room filled with people and went to hold Cathy’s hand. She said quietly, “Susie, I have missed you.” I said, “I’ve missed you too and I came to tell you I love you.” She answered that she loved me too and that she was tired and she was sorry but she didn’t want to fight cancer anymore. I told her I understood and that I didn’t want her to feel as if she had to host me as a guest, instead I was there for her. We talked about God and heaven and she said she had seen glimpses as God was leading her spirit little by little. We told a couple of secrets that made us both smile and then her brothers came into the room and it was the four of us like it was when we were teenagers. We talked about where life had taken us and old stories about the past. We brought up phone bills, and FaceTime, and how much trouble we’d be in if were teens today and we laughed like we used to over stupid stuff. Cathy took a sip of ice water and through half-closed eyes she said to me, “See what I have to do to get us all together like old times?” I replied, “Who knew all those fights with your brothers would make you give cancer a run for its money?”
My sister and my friend is passing from this life to her next one and as I write this my heart breaks. It breaks because we distance ourselves from painful events and while we do, there is the unintended casualties of souls that are wounded. It seems necessary to separate out, to stop the pain in the moment, and are in the end are such pitifully poor decisions. To turn away love from one heart because another has been careless with your heart can never be right. I’m thanking God for second chances and a deep friendship with a wonderful woman who loved me deeply and who is forever embedded in my heart.