I am going to a funeral on Sunday.
By the time I met Sandra in grade 9, her scar above her left eye had started to fade. She didn’t make a big deal about it. She’d had cancer in grade 6-7. She survived. That was all. I liked Sandra, everybody did. She was petite and sweet and kind and funny. One of the popular kids, without ever being a Mean Girl. She had a light about her that everyone – including teachers – gravitated towards. She lived near me, and sometimes her Ma and my Ma would chat and encourage each other through the trials and tribulations of raising headstrong adolescent girls. I liked her Ma: a little lady with twinkling eyes that could worry like the best of them, but always had faith, a smile and a hopeful word. Although I never was close to Sandra – I never was close to anyone particularly in high school, that’s how I survived – I always felt seen by her. Seen and accepted, which is a gift.
According to Facebook, after graduating, she went on to Cegep and University, tried her hand at various entrepreneurial ventures, met a guy that was absolutely nutty about her and got married. A while back I saw a GoFundMe being shared by my former classmates. I read it, it mentioned Sandra & medical bills. I didn’t pay attention, I saved the link, and never looked at it again, distracted by life.
Her cancer came back.
That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. I recycle.
I haven’t seen her in 10 years, but somehow the world spins slightly differently now that her smile is gone.
I feel shame. Shame that I have been distracted by the triviality of my life, rather than being present in the lives of those that matter. We are not immortal. Time lost now is time lost forever. I made that mistake with my mother. Clearly, over time, I’ve forgotten that lesson. Would that I not do so again.
Recently, I’ve been trying to clean up my diet, start going back to the gym, in an attempt to feel better, for real. Despite a stable weight – even some weight loss! – and looking really good, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such a long stretch of feeling so meh. My mental health is also clearly affected, as evidenced by my 8 month struggle with this depression shadow shit. My tool box dictates health starts with nutrition and exercise. I’d forgotten, until I got hit with the flu on NYE.
I complained at work about feeling under the weather, again, today. CSD rolled his eyes at me, “GO SEE A DOCTOR”. I pointed out I didn’t have anything specific to complain about, other than not feeling myself for the past ever. I used to be an athlete. Now I sleep 8 hours and can barely drag myself out of bed. “GO SEE A DOCTOR”, he said. “Ask for blood tests, see what they say. You’ve got nothing to lose.” I dithered. Maybe. GAB heard that maybe and stood by my desk until I gave her my Medicare card. She found me an appointment tomorrow at 11:30am. She even paid the $19 registration fee to ensure my spot was reserved. Then she did a happy dance and high-fived CSD 15 times as they congratulated themselves that they’d saved me from impending renal failure.
They teased me that I was too quiet. How to explain how much that meant to me? They did not let themselves be distracted by life, even as I was too distracted by life to take care of my own.
We are not immortal. But love is.
Sandra, Vechnaya Pamyat.
“In a blessed falling asleep, grant, O Lord, eternal rest unto Thy departed servant and make her memory to be eternal!”