Monday, March 28, 2011

The Gift of Friendship...No Matter How Brief

We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.
Joseph Roux

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.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Life Changing Meet-Ups (Take II)

I had no idea that this trip to NYC would prove to be so unforgettable.

For the first time, I hadn't planned everywhere I wanted to go. I didn't have a list a mile long of stores and museums to visit. I had no agenda.

Unheard of, for me. Especially, in NYC.

I mean, this is a mecca for someone like me! Craft, hobby, art stores, book and magazine shops, museums, libraries, gardens.... I can easily find more to do than I have time for.

But this trip, I saved room for a little "Que Sera Sera".

I traveled with my business partner, to attend a hair show and her sister and her daughter tagged along to see NYC. Sis is in education and was telling us that her school nurse was in NYC for specialized treatment for a rare form of cancer and that she really wanted to visit her, did we want to come along? D and I looked at each other. Well....that could be awkward, but it would be a nice gesture, since she was so far from home.

So we went.

Have you ever met someone for the first time and found that, before you knew it, they had completely captured your heart?

I felt a connection to her right away. As we chatted, I found her so approachable.
We visited a vintage clothing store where we gasped at the price tags and the clothes of yesteryear. We tried on hats and held up ridiculous purple dresses (trimmed in fur!) and mused about their former life.

Later, all of us strolled through Saks and when she spotted a dog (in. the. store.), she walked over to give it a pat while the rest of us were numbing our olfactory organ by sniffing perfume.

We came across St. Patrick's Cathedral and walked in to the breathtaking interior.

Then, I got the best souvenir of the entire trip:
I don't know why it never occurred to me to have a photo of the two of us taken together. Maybe because I didn't feel I had a right. Me, a virtual stranger...

So instead, I sneaked one.

I showed her the photo and told her how special it was to me.
We continued our walk for a bit and then she had to catch the bus back.

It was a tearful "so long" for all of us.

But now, I look forward to the day she's back home, where she belongs.

And until then, I'll be praying.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Serendipity, Soakings and Starbucks

So, it's taken a week to slow down my cosmopolitan lifestyle long enough to stop and blog about it.

At this time last Sunday, I was at the International Beauty Show in New York City on a rainy day that would last The. Entire. Day.

Despite the Day of Deluge, it was the best trip to NYC I think I've ever had.

I love NYC. There's an energy there that you will find no other place on earth. When I arrive, I seem to find a piece of myself there...waiting.

After visiting several times now, I feel pretty comfortable traversing the city and I felt no pressure to "see" everything.

That left plenty of room for serendipity which I enjoyed in full measure. I just never fully grasped how this trip would change my life forever.

My virtual, online life and my "real" life collided.

Tanya Dennis
@ Do I count as a "must-see"? ;) My NYC faves are the MET, people-watching in any park, and, if you see a show: "The Lion King."

...and so it began...

I didn't see the MET, the park OR Lion King, but I DID see this sweet face:

Tanya was/is SUCH a gift. She drove into the city from the 'burbs in the POURING rain, JUST to see ME!

You know how there's that awkward moment when you first meet someone as you wonder where do we go from here?

None of that happened. We hugged as if we'd been reunited instead of meeting for the first time.

We went for a "modestly priced" (the concierge needs to be educated on the meaning of the word "modest"--ACK) Italian dinner around the corner, chosen mostly for it's location because of the rain. Fortunately, it was delicious, and because we both LOVE food, well, that was a WIN.

Discovering we both love coffee, (WIN WIN) we decided it wasn't a big deal to walk in the pouring rain to find a good cup o' joe over which to chat. We figured there would be a Starbucks on a nearby corner and when we saw a man walking down the sidewalk hunched over a Starbucks cup, we simultaneously accosted him.

Poor guy.

After he pointed to the building right in front of us, he scurried off. ( I swear, he looked over his shoulder to make sure we didn't have designs on HIS Starbucks score.)

Although we succeeded in capturing our own cups of coffee, the chat would have to adjourn to the hotel lobby as Starbucks was closing. (RUDE.)

We talked of everything friends talk about. And I'm sure we could have talked all.night.long. because we had only got started it seemed, when she ruefully looked at her watch and had to start home.

Another hug, and she was off.

I went smiling up to my room and looked at my phone when it hit me...

After all that and WE DIDN'T TAKE A SINGLE PHOTO.

(What kind of bloggers meet and don't take photos? The kind who forget their cameras. *sheepish grin*)

So I called her and found she had just arrived at her car. She drove around the block, parked in front of the hotel, jumped out and we shot our pic in 5 seconds flat.

As I've smiled at the memories we made that night, I've marveled that such a feeling of closeness could be cultivated in such a short time.

Like I said,

A gift.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New York and All That Jazz

I"m going to NYC this weekend for a the IBS hairshow.

But let's be real.

We all know that I'm going for the gastronomic delights that NYC has to offer.

So far, on the must eat list:

Norma's for breakfast.

Grand Central Oyster Bar for lunch (?) snack(?) dinner(?)

And quite possibly, The Central Park Boathouse.

The airline will probably charge extra to fly me home.