I have spent nearly 10 glorious days with my daughter visiting one of our favorite places in the world…Santa Cruz, California. We have done everything on our list including walks along the ocean cliffs, tide pooling at low tide, eating at many of our favorite places, spending the afternoon at a winery, hiking into the redwoods, driving south to Big Sur to take in the dramatic scenery along the coast and spending a couple of hours at a local spa. But yesterday we did the hardest thing we had to do: We said goodbye to an old friend who is dying.
In fact, that was the real purpose of this trip. Everything else has been wonderful, but, sadly, led up to this farewell. I have known my friend T. for over 45 years. We first met in Santa Cruz where I had come to live with a boyfriend. When that relationship didn’t hold up, she kindly took me in by renting me a room in her home where I spent the next 2 l/2 years. We were about 20 years apart in age but were good companions. I think she enjoyed my youth and enthusiasm and I certainly needed her wisdom and stability in my life. I’ve been coming back to visit her periodically for decades and even more so during the 7 years my daughter recently spent living in Santa Cruz. I’ve known her for so long she is part of my extended family.
Last year she told me over the phone that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. She had been a regular smoker long ago and apparently it took its toll. Chemo treatments that seemed to work at first, did not prevent a recurrence and so she told me recently that she was probably going to die soon. Well, that time is almost here, and I came to say goodbye. Before I left her she told me she really enjoyed living with me, something she had never said before. My heart filled with gladness. When I walked out the door onto her patio I went to pieces. It was so overwhelming to say goodbye to her, to her home which I love so much, to our friendship. It felt to me like a life-changing moment and a really big loss.
An amazing thing happened, though, during this very sad visit. Another friend of mine, who was a student at the time I lived with T., had come back to take care of her. I haven’t seen that friend in about 40 years yet the moment we saw each other it felt like time had stood still. I have had this happen before with old friends who have reemerged in my life. I couldn’t help thinking today that “one door shuts and another opens.” I am trying to be more accepting of change and that our existence is an ebb and flow of ups and downs, predictable and non-predictable events. That this event is just another stop on the journey. I am just so grateful that my own journey is not over.