It was early morning and as usual, I signed on to Facebook. As usual, I checked the day’s birthdays to find that yes, one of my friends, “DB” was celebrating her special day. She was more than an acquaintance–a former client I used to lunch with every so often even after she left her firm–but not a friend I saw much of. In fact, I hadn’t seen her since we moved back to California. But I kept up with her on Facebook from time to time.
Over on her Facebook page I began to post a Happy Birthday image when I noticed the post below mine.
“Missing you so much today,” it read. My eyes widened. I scrolled down further and found a series of posts going back to July, talking about how shocked they were and how much they missed her.
Could she be dead?
It couldn’t be true, I thought. No way.
I remembered her as a really nice person, athletic, a runner, a single professional who was constantly on the road for her jobs. Always happy and vivacious, her broad smile was all teeth and she was always tanned. I liked her and her vibrant personality a lot. The last time we spoke she said she’d been living with a really great guy. She seemed fulfilled, excited even. Surely she hadn’t died.
I quickly Googled her. Several obituaries appeared. I looked at them in disbelief. It was true. She’d died.
She was only
in her mid-50s. Cancer. I surmised that from the part of the obituary that said “in lieu of flowers…” followed by the name of a cancer center I knew. It didn’t say what kind.
I went back to her Facebook page, thinking perhaps she’d posted about her treatment. Nothing. She never shared any of what she was going through, only photos and comments about the travels she and her husband did. I wasn’t surprised. She was an upbeat girl and not one to complain about anything.
Had she been sick even as she took some of those trips? Or was it sudden? I didn’t know and I had no way to find out. We didn’t have any mutual friends. Some of my former colleagues may have known of her passing but if they did, they didn’t pass the information on to me. Instead, I was blindsided by Facebook.
It was hard to believe that this vibrant, happy life had been cut short. She remained on my mind for a long time. Maybe it’s because I’m still grieving the loss of my dear sister-friend or maybe it’s that I’m feeling my own mortality, but I can’t get her off my mind, still.
Thinking of her the other day, I looked online for a clue as to what took her life. I didn’t find that, but I did find a video that the funeral home had made to memorialize her life. It was almost 10 minutes long (!) made up of many still photos of her, her husband, her parents, her stepchildren. She’d married the man she had been living with and she was clearly loved by him and his children.
The photos confirmed that they had traveled a LOT. There she was in the California wine country. And Paris. In a hot air balloon. Deep sea fishing. Relaxing with a tropical cocktail. With her beloved dog. Oh God, did that get me. And with her loving husband.
In each photo
her wide grin stole the show.
What I saw in that video was a happy life well-lived.
You’d think that I would be happy that she’d had that. And I was, of course. But what got to me the most was that she’d had it and then it was gone, in a heartbeat.
Sometimes, that’s how it happens.
So tonight, I’ll raise a glass to my friend, DB: a lovely woman who lived her dream until she died. We’ll be in the Sonoma wine country for a few nights next month and I’ll think of her as we taste wine.
I will also think of Jonathan Swift’s words: may you live all the days of your life.
That, she surely did.
And each time I visit a new place or have a new experience, I hope I remember that it’s a little piece of my own well-lived life and appreciate the moment so that I, too, will live all the days of my own life.
Rest in piece, Donna. Rest in peace.