Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'm Back; It's Been A While

Our friend Kirstin died just before 8 pm on July 1. I've spent the ensuing weeks alternately mourning and celebrating her life. I've also been trying to understand statistics for one of my required classes. (Failing.)

Here's a note I wrote for Kirstin:

I saw you out of the corner of my eye: something luminous dancing out near the water garden while I was outfitting my brand new study/office (yes, I finally have one). You visited as a perfect white butterfly glowing in the bright sunlight. As soon as I stopped to stare, you were gone.

Your life seems like that: 40 years, a mere blink of an eye. Yet your wings touched all of us, from Olympia to Sacramento and San Francisco, New Orleans and all over the world. You spent time in soup kitchens, ministering to the lost, the lonely, the forgotten. And you didn’t stop there. You walked the streets looking for people in need of help in alleys, under bridges and anywhere the homeless set up camp to stay safe at night. You helped rebuild homes in post-Katrina New Orleans. You lived the very essence of Jesus’ message in the Gospels: lead by example, accept nothing and go forth.

I miss you. I miss our late night, prednisone-fueled chats. Since you’ve been gone, our lives haven’t been the same, and even my beloved sun feels like an insult. Facebook and blogging seem less interesting, although Facebook does remind me now and then that you’re a fan of Pema Chodron. You always had the best taste.

Of course our greatest bond was the one that took you from us. I remember how I wept when I found out you had melanoma. At that time I was two years into my own cancer struggle. It broke my heart to see you go through surgery and interferon treatments. After all, you had bigger things to do. As you did with everything, you faced cancer with dignity, grace and brutal honesty. You didn’t sugar-coat it when it wasn’t pretty – and let’s face it, cancer’s not pretty – and you showed the strength of your faith as well as your fears when things didn’t go well.

One thing no cancer patient wants to hear is that The Beast is back. One day I was reading your posts about finding new tumors each day while you were still joking with me about my stiletto heels. I never had a sister but I felt a sisterly bond with you. The day I found out you were entering hospice, first I cried (Nehemiah 1:4), then I pulled myself together, booked airline tickets, a rental car and a hotel so I could visit you. It never occurred to me to even check to see if you had time for another visitor. As far as I was concerned, that day you were Commissioner Gordon and I was Batman, ready to fly into action.

The day you actively began to die I felt it. I was writing in my journal at the time, and right in the middle of a wholly different topic, I wrote, “K is dying.” Something akin to a chill came over me, although I wasn’t cold. It felt like a tiny earthquake only I could feel.

Although I miss you more than I can say, I imagine you in a place so beautiful that our words cannot describe it. Maybe at first its beauty even startled you and hurt your eyes. Then maybe you sat on a pillow while our Savior washed your feet – feet that had spent a lifetime dancing barefoot on holy ground.

I love you, my sister. You will never be forgotten.