Saturday, January 26, 2013

Love you muchest, my friend.

In early December, I received the phone call that I dreaded from someone who I had never met. Dana, a friend of my friend Jenniffer (aka my Soul Momma) was on the end of the line telling me that Jenniffer was in a nursing facility with only weeks to live. I knew this call was coming. She had been sick, really sick, for months, and had been diagnosed with an inoperable tumor two years previous...but still. I would never be ready for this call no matter how much Buddhist meditation on Emptiness I did.

Jenniffer (far right) with me (in middle) and our Turner gal-pals,
Laurie Lord, Sara Cotsen and Kaye Zusmann in Mar. 1996.
That weekend Jason and I drove to Indianapolis to see her. Before you start saying "Oh how nice. What a good friend you are!" let me assure you that I wasn't happy about taking this road trip. I'm a selfish, awful person when it comes down to it. I don't like to see my friends in discomfort, let alone dying. More than that, I knew that nothing I could do would change the outcome for my friend, and I wasn't even sure if she would be happy to see me. You see, my dear Soul Momma never wanted any of her friends to worry about her. She kept the extent of her illness to herself. I hadn't heard from her in two months (turns out she had been in the hospital...for TWO months) prior to getting Dana's call. That was Jenniffer's way. She never wanted to be a bother to anyone.

The last time I talked with Jenn was in August. She called me to tell me that the cancer was back. At that time, the doctors gave her four years to live. She was going to her oncologist the following day and I begged her to take Dana along for support. Jenniffer's mother had died (of cancer) two years prior and her father was/is quite feeble. I had not met Dana but I felt sure she would be a good person to attend a doctor's visit and take notes. She was Jenniffer's best friend, and she was there in Indy. When Jenniffer assured me she would call Dana, I knew she was just putting me off, telling me what I wanted to hear. I knew she would go it alone. I was pissed. "This isn't all about you," I said. "It helps your friends when you let them help you." "I know you're right," she said, but I knew that she wasn't gonna call Dana. And she didn't.

I didn't know she had not called Dana until Dana called me on that December morning with the news that Jenniffer's cancer was more aggressive than anyone could have imagined. She had undergone chemotherapy but she was greatly weakened by the treatment. Jenniffer had asked Dana to call me if things "got bad." The time had come for us all to accept reality and say good-bye.

When I walked into Jenniffer's room she waved me in as though she were expecting me, although I knew Dana had not told her I was coming. We didn't want to give her the opportunity to say, "No, don't come now. It's such a long trip..." With Jenniffer, it was far better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I'd visited her unexpectedly one other time. It was the day she had her first operation to remove the tumor that had invaded her spine. I had set a precedent for just showing up, so she probably knew I'd eventually wander in. When she saw me she shook her head, rolled her eyes, and smiled.

Jenniffer was very thin and tired, but she was lucid and lively was ever. While I sat beside her bed during her waking hours, we recounted the litany of our adventures. The time we signed up to provide dinner at a homeless shelter and planned on serving ham, but bought (raw) pork roast instead. We stayed up all night cooking this enormous roast, which we had to split between our two single-girl efficiency apartment ovens. (It turned out delicious.) Then there was the time we traveled to New Orleans together and attended Jazz Fest. One evening while walking through the French Quarter, we heard a street singer belting out a song that became our anthem. "Jesus on the mainline, tell him what you want! Tell him, tell him, what you want!"

Jenniffer had great Faith in God. We talked a lot about faith and what that meant. She often wrote, "When you pray, pray with great Faith." She capped the F in faith. I would say things to Jenniffer that I never said to anyone else, such as "God's got this," "God's got you." Which may sound funny coming from a Buddhist practitioner but I whole-heartedly believe it's true. My idea of God may be different than Jenniffer's (or yours) but I do think that we are held in a loving presence...always...if we have Faith.

I received a call from Dana a week ago Thursday night. I knew what she was going to say before she said it: Jenniffer had passed from this world. As much as I knew that call was inevitable, it was difficult news to hear. Today, Jenn is being laid to rest near her beloved mother.

I will miss those emails and those talks. But right now, the thing I miss most about Jenniffer is getting text messages from her late at night. We had this little game where one of us would text the other saying, "Love you my friend." And the other person would text back, "Love you more." Which would lead to "Love you more-er." Or 'Love you much." Love you mucher." "Love you muchest." And so on. There were a lot of times when I was really down, or scared or just lonely and getting her text messages made all the difference. I'll have to get along without those messages now, although I know the sentiment will never change. Jenniffer will always be my dear friend. Love you muchest...

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