Sunday, March 23, 2014
Once upon a time, there was a friend I made in my early twenties working in a day care center where I was a teacher of the 3-4 year old classroom. I had her oldest daughter in my room, the cutest, sweetest dang thing - we had a bond me and this three year old and she invited me to her fourth birthday party. Her younger sister was in another room at the center and we would visit her often. Things went on and I was let go from the center only to be hired as the in home caregiver to this wonderful family who in turn became my own family. I went on field trips with these kids, took them to the mall, enjoyed staying the night when mommy went into labor with the third baby. They started having me over for Christmas eve. She set me up on blind dates with guys she knew from high school, gave me her opinions about boyfriends I had and set me up with my first real gynecologist.
I worked for this family for a little over four years before moving out of state for a few and we kept in touch. I made sure to visit whenever I came to town whether it was a night's stay or just a playland visit. Upon my return move, she was there, helping me find a job. I was at the hospital when her twins were born. Her older daughters were junior bridesmaids in my wedding. I started watching her kids again once I started having kids which seemed like a natural flow. We were now at each others kid's birthday parties and still going over for a late Christmas eve. We would talk about life on the phone in the evenings, she would give me advice or come backs for my mother in law. "If he doesn't get it at home, he will get it somewhere else," she told me when I lost my libido after having my son. We were real with each other. I was there when she helped lay shingles on her own roof, she was there when I found out I was pregnant with my second baby.
I got the call from her brother in early February that she had cancer at 42.
I visited her at the hospital and she looked good, I was hopeful. Everyone was hopeful. She started doing chemo and buying presents for future birthdays and Easter, writing notes to her five children. Her sister came to stay with her and help her though the side effects. Her friends started putting together benefits, some shaved their heads when she started losing her hair and decided to shave hers. She couldn't talk on the phone anymore when I called. Within weeks, hospice was brought in as she was declining quickly. I remember going to her house for the twins' third birthday gathering where she laid in the bed sleeping with her bald head and my son who was just over 2 at the time called her a beautiful little sleeping baby most of the ride home that day.
Her mother told me that she had predicted I was having a girl. "You watch, she will get her girl," she said. I had that girl in July and named her Rhiannon Hope after Susan Hope Kieffer. One of my closest friends and 10 year confidant. A mother to two girls on the edge of their teenage years, a ten year old boy and three year old twin girls. She slipped away before anyone had time to even let it sink in that she had cancer. Her big benefit had been scheduled and ended up being the week after the funeral services. She was one of the good ones. Gone right as her journey was getting revved up. I'm grateful to have been a part of her life and proud to have a daughter with her middle name.
She didn't get her happily ever after.
Ten years seems like an eternity and at the same time still feels just as fresh as if it happened last week some days. I see so much of her in her older girls, now in their early twenties who are both so much wiser than their years. So much that I've had to double take on a picture or two. The younger ones, just turned 13 here last week so in a way it's coming around full circle. Me being the age she was when she passed, her older girls being the age I was when I met them, and the younger ones being the age the older ones were. I know she's had a hand in each of her children's lives over the years which shows in their mannerisms and values and that she would be so proud of the people her children are becoming.