“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.
that was so beautiful, and so sad. the puppies are licking up my tears.
I am so sorry.
Love you Jem.
Linnea (your Mom)
We mourn the loss of yet another friend and bright star in the Lung Cancer Community and the world at large. For us who did not know Stephanie personally in this lifetime, it sure sounds like she was a goddess. I will look forward to meeting her when we all learn to fly in another 100 years from now. So as Stephanie had said to Linnea, and Linnea had said to Stephanie and many others, “Goodnight sweet one”.
I extend my condolences to Stephanie’s friends and family.
Cheryl. 100 years from now and flying both sound just right. In the meantime, there is nothing to do but keep making noise so that the greater world comes to understand how many are taken too soon.
Oh Linnea, I am so sorry. This damn disease takes some of the best people; so much loss. I wish there was some way to make sense of all of this, but there just isn’t. Stephanie sounds like an amazing soul, what a gift for the two of you to connect. Sending lots of hugs your way my friend.
Lorraine, I know it is not actually true, but sometimes it seems as if this disease picks on the young and the strong. Like everything else about cancer, it just doesn’t make sense. Hug received and returned.
So sorry Linnea. On this St. Valentine’s eve, sending all my love to you, Stephanie’s family and her partner Michael.
Aw Beryl, I’ve been thinking about you. I hope you are well and your love and friendship something I cherish. I will send your good wishes along and a Happy Valentines Day to you.