A childhood friend died today, in London.
Debra had beautiful chestnut hair that always smelled FLEX-shampoo fresh, a lovely smile and a wicked sense of humor.
She had been fighting breast cancer for 18 years and she was only 49. She leaves behind, her husband and two children, her parents and sisters, their families and many, many friends.
The crowd of us who met up every weekend as teenagers, are scattered across the globe as adults.
We may not have seen Debra recently or kept in touch, but Debra was part of the fabric of our social life then and her untimely passing, rips a hole in us now.
Debra was a very private person and so perhaps her death is even more of a shock. Many didn't know her clock was ticking and her health was fading. A friend wrote that just two days ago he was playing "Words with Friends" with her via Facebook and was unaware she was so close to the end of her life. …. I hope she enjoyed that normalcy and I wonder if that is how she would like to be remembered.
I hadn't spoken to Debra for at least 15 years, before we reconnected. However two years ago in March 2012, she came across the pond for a mutual friend's daughter's Bat Mitzvah. We had a wonderful time reminiscing and catching up.
On Saturday night, four of us went out together and I wrote about it on my blog.
I called it, Four Girls and a Bar of Chocolate
At the time I used no names and masked any identifying details, to preserve anonymity, but it seems appropriate today to share it again, with this new information.
We’ve all gathered for the weekend for M’s son’s Bar Mitzvah and it is obviously time to eat again.
Four of us in our forties, each dealing with medical issues of our own, or our family’s, are at crossroads in our lives.
There is much to discuss.
Two of us are breast cancer survivors, one is going through her 3rd course of chemo in 20 years, one has multiple sclerosis and one has a husband recovering from brain surgery. One is job hunting, three have given up jobs due to family illness. You’d think it would be a depressing conversation.
Three of us are originally from England and have known each other since childhood. One is Canadian and newer to us all but we feel we have known her since we were kids. We all have children, two have sick parents, two have lost our fathers and worry about our mothers. We are the sandwich generation.
We laugh so much that our sides ache, our eyes are filled with tears and customers at the other tables are looking at us rather strangely.
We laugh about very serious things, in a way you can only do if you have experienced them yourself and feel in safe company –breast reconstruction, job loss, brain MRIs, counselling, children affected by their parents’ illnesses.
We predict each other’s answers and this only makes us giggle more.
The chocolate is passed around and we take deep gulping breaths.
We look at each other and shake our heads that we are here together, in a country none of us grew up in, celebrating in the midst of crisis, laughing with the future unknown and gaining strength that friendship, support, love, lots of belly aching laughter and good English chocolate can make everything seem okay, at least for a moment.
When I sent this post to Debra to read, she loved it and responded with this…
"This is one more reminder that life is short and we need to make the effort to keep in touch with people who are important to us or have changed our lives in some way."
And that was exactly what we did. We kept in touch via Facebook messages. She generously reposted my blog on her Facebook page and we tried unsuccessfully to meet up a number of times on various continents.
I hoped I would one day write an update on Four Girls and a Bar of Chocolate, that would include better health for all of us, or our family members and happiness in our homes and lives. All four of us moved on from where we were. Some things are much easier now and some more challenging.
Debra's death is unfathomable.
That night was such a great tonic for us all. That combination of old friendships, much laughter and chocolate erased, for a little while, everything we were grappling with and we have referred to it often since.
So in Debra's memory I am going to make sure to call my old friends. I am going to spend that time reminiscing and laughing with them, when times are good.
I am going to bottle our laughter and friendship and old memories as a tonic and a balm to the difficult times we have and will encounter.
And I boldly suggest you do the same.
Don't wait for bad news, challenging situations, a crisis or a particular event. I think Debra would like you to remember her by reaching out and back to those you may have lost touch with or speak to infrequently. Enjoy the comfort of "old times" to help with the new times ahead.
Debra was courageous and kind and an inspiration to many young women grappling with breast cancer.
May her memory be for a blessing.
Sending love and hugs to Debra's family and to all of you missing someone you love.
Do you know of a dear friend or family member who died too young?
What helped you most at that time?
Feel free to share your memories and thoughts below. Gx
These posts may also bring you comfort:-
5 Ways to Bring Comfort at Times of Illness or Distress
Tea-A Hug in a Cup
Moving From Hurt to Healing. How Taking One Step Back can Take You Two Steps Forward
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