I knew her 3 weeks and 4 days and then she was gone. Taken by a rare form of thyroid cancer. Although I physically only spent time with her twice, I feel as devastated by her death as if she'd been a lifetime friend.
I met Mary Ann in NYC March 5th. She was at Hope Lodge for cancer treatment. I was traveling with someone who knew her and worked with her. Although she is from my town, I didn't know her so I went along to visit her as a nice gesture.
She appeared, looking the very picture of NY chic in her knee high riding boots and flowing coral cardigan. She gave us a tour of the Hope House, (that is, the areas where visitors are allowed) which gave the sense of a home-like hotel. An institution that offers many lovely home-like touches, but is still way to perfect to be home.
We then took a walk to get water at the corner store, which led to an amble through the streets. We visited a vintage shop, Saks, she lit a candle at St. Patrick's Cathedral, we watched the skaters glide across the ice at Rockefeller Center, and shared a hot dog from a street vendor.
Nothing remarkable, but it changed everything.
It was one of two life changing meetings that happened to me that weekend.
About a week after returning home, I received news that she was returning home for terminal care. The cancer had taken over and there was nothing to be done. I was anxious to see her and prayed that I might. My friend called me and said that she was given 3-10 days to live...and that she wanted a haircut.
For pity's sake...a haircut?
This I could do.
We arranged the time for Saturday after I finished a wedding and went to Mary Ann's house. She was considerably weaker in that short 3 weeks; tan from jaundice and a bit wobbly on her feet. The cancer, which had now spread to the brain, left her momentarily foggy when searching for words, but I could still see the woman who captured my heart.
We spent a wonderful 2 hours visiting, hugging, crying and laughing. It was wonderful, but I was achingly aware that I had most likely given her her last haircut. (And she rocked it!)
The following Tuesday, I received a call at work telling me that she was in Hospice. As soon as I finished work, I went over. I doubt she knew I was there, but I met her sister and visited with her husband (of 30+ years) who touched my heart as he tenderly attended to Mary Ann's needs.
The call came the next day that she had died at 2:45 am Wednesday morning.
I've been amazed at how deeply her death has affected me since I've knew her for such a short time. I feel I almost don't have a right to grieve her as deeply as I do.
But in spite of the pain, I am grateful for the gift of her life which touched mine, no matter how briefly.