Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dear Joan,

I can't believe that it's ten years ago today that you're gone. It feels more like it happened just a little while ago.

I miss you. I guess you already knew that. But I wouldn't wish you back into that suffering body that was so sick for so many years, a body that was wholly unworthy of the task of housing such a good person's spirit for so long. I'm not sorry to know you're free of dialysis, itching, angina, carpal tunnel syndrome, and the 1,001 million dietary restrictions that accompanied being both a kidney patient and a heart patient. It used to kill me to see you suffering with so many symptoms, and to see the couple of dozen or so different prescription bottles carefully arranged on the counter top, and to think, "Shouldn't a person who's taking all these meds, and following doctors' orders religously, feel better than this?"

And the depression. I bear that cross, too, you know. I have fought that demon for years, which you DID know, but even you never saw me in the kind of pain I've had at times since the downsizing. And every time I want to just give up, I hear your voice telling Joe and Joey D and me, "Even though I felt sick, I FORCED myself" to do whatever task it was. And I keep going. I remember how you never gave up, and I force myself. And GOOD GOD, I confess that I never grasped the meaning of those words to the extent that I understand them now. I thought I knew, but I had no idea. Still, you stood tall for years. If you could, I can.

Joe and Joey D and you and I... we were a bunch, weren't we? Other friends were in the mix, too: Karla and Betty and John R. and Bob, to name a few, but we four were a close-knit bunch. I miss all those Saturday nights we used to go visit you. I miss the lunches at Strawbridge and Clothier's, the *real* one before the store changed hands and changed business models, back when it was still the last family-owned department store in America. I wouldn't trade those times for anything.

By the way, I'm SO happy that I met Mark while you were still with us. I'm so glad you got to meet him, too. Especially since you left us only a few months after that. We missed you at my wedding. Well, I'm sure you were there, but you know what I mean.

Ten years. I still am having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that so much time has passed. Ten years since the people from choir and the prayer group attended your wake and, not having a clue who your blood relatives were, lined up and paid their respects to Joey, Joey D, and me. Ten years since Karla overheard someone from prayer meeting observe, during the wake, "THOSE were her children", meaning the Joes and me. Ten years since the Mass when I saw your choir robe on display in the loft, and burst into tears on the spot. Ten years since the blood relatives showed that they understood enough to let us friends be the ones who rode in the funeral-home-provided limo.

But also ten years of knowing that you've got no more dialysis, no more angina, no more bone pain, no more itching, no more nitroglycerine-induced headaches, and no more need to utter the phrase, "I forced myself" ever again. And you deserve that peace. I wouldn't dream of denying it to you for a moment.

So please say hello for us to the choir members and prayer group members who've since gone up there to join you. Give skritches to Misty, Melody, Harmony, Fazzolette, and Bogey for us, too. All of them can see you now as we never saw you on earth -- healthy and strong. Say some prayers for us, too, please -- I'm sure you remember well what a challenge it can be to get by, down here. But we're doing our best.

Till we meet again,


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