“I would invite everyone to come to tea if I could, but especially you. A fistful of frozen peach slices from last summer truly brightened our day.”
And so were my days made shinier each time I opened a comment from my friend Stephanie.
She entered my life almost two years ago; no introduction, just a casual aside of the sort you would make to a friend of many years. I was instantly intrigued and set about trying to tease more information from her. And yet, her comments remained haiku like in both their beauty and their brevity. At times I felt as if I were being courted. I was smitten.
What I did know about her was that she loved life and yummy food and delicious experiences and could turn a phrase with the same precision my Grandmother Effie used when paring skin from an apple in one continuous strip. She lived in the NorthWest and had a partner, Michael, whom she adored and was adored by. She had a lust for travel and got as many many miles under her belt as she was able. And, like me, she had lung cancer.
Late last year, she was given hard news. The cancer had gotten the upper hand. Stephanie and Michael got on a plane for one last trip to Sicily. By the end of January, the inevitable decline had begun and Stephanie entered hospice.
Rather desperate, I sent her an email:
“The two cardinal rules–we can’t stop eating and we can’t lay down and not get up. Remember, please.”
It was selfish and not vaguely practical advice. If she could accept this unfortunate development, I had to as well. The next time I responded with more compassion for the particulars of the situation:
“The news you send is sad but understood…being prepared has always been my MO, even when it means considering all the worst case scenarios.
That you should need to stop treatment was not one of them.”
Yesterday I found out that Stephanie had died on Monday. I was utterly devastated.
It would seem I am not alone: a small volcano of communal grief has erupted online. Stephanie was a member of Lungevity and volunteered as a global moderator at GRACE and her passing will leave a big hole in the heart of both of those organizations. Her partner Michael eulogized her as “the world’s tiniest architect”, on his blog, BlatherWatch (more from Michael, as well as Stephanie’s thoughts, on her own blog, The NO JELLO Journal, which until now was a bit of a secret). Evidently Miss Stephanie was a well respected foodie as well, as her passing was lamented online by that community.
When our mutual friend Guillermo died, Stephanie shared this beautiful poem:
When we walk to the edge
of all the light we have
and take the step into the
darkness of the unknown,
we must believe one of
two things will happen – –
There will be something solid
for us to stand on,
or we will be taught
how to fly.
– – Claire Morris
It is a comforting image.
In the end, I will send Stephanie off with her last words to me:
Goodnight sweet one
Right back at you girl.