Earlier this week my wife and I learned that a good friend of ours had died of cancer. Although we’d known for a few months that she was ill, it was still a shock, as death always is.
She’d been in chemo for awhile, and an additional problem had recently shown up in her back. My wife came down the stairs to my office and said with tears in her eyes, “Suzanne died.” I hadn’t expected her illness to kill her. My wife had been the one with a premonition.
What could we do? Nothing. So we sat quietly, remembering her over the years. Then we made a little alter on a table and lit candles, put up a photograph of her under a lamp to help us recall happy times. This post is part of that, I suppose.
We last saw her just before Christmas. She and a friend came by for our annual holiday get-together with the two of them. As always we talked about her teaching — art history at a local community college. She was absolutely devoted to her vocation, to the stories behind the art and about the artists. She never got paid enough for the deep work she put into her presentations or for the special care she gave her students. She was as kind and gentle — as good — a person as anyone I’ve ever met. She had wanted to get a little farther in her life, to 70, when she could retire and travel, and have a few more adventures. She had more to do.
We exchanged presents that day. She gave us two big amaryllis bulbs. The pink one just came into full bloom last week. The pure white one is just starting.
There’s nothing new in this story, no special reflections on mortality. You live, you have an image of what you want to do or be before you die, and you may — or may not — get there.
A candle is burning. One day the flame will go out and then you are gone.
If there’s something you want to do, something that’s really important to you, I’d say do it now.
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