It was a conversation I didn’t expect. It happened almost a year ago.
On a bright summer Sunday afternoon my family decided to attend the back to school bash at a friend’s house. The anticipation of this event drew us in, my daughter counting down the seconds until she could swim in the pool with all her friends. As soon as we parked the car, she ripped off her dress like a superhero and underneath emerged a blue peace sign swimsuit. We walked fast, trying to keep up with her pace, as she eyed the swimming pool and all of her new Kindergarten friends. My husband decided to be the swimming martyr for the day and accompanied her to the pool. There are endless variations of high-fives, shrieks, and smiles from all of the five year olds.
I decided to linger behind, making small talk with the mothers, exchanging stories about how our children’s first week of Kindergarten fared. The strawberries and grapes enticed me to get a plate and I placed a piece of fruit in my mouth, while watching my daughter and husband play chicken in the water. Next to me was another mother, who I’ve known for almost three years, someone I enjoyed bantering with about books, our children’s habits, and general observations from life.
We usually talked about really nothing in particular, but that all changed with a single conversation. When she told me, I recall feeling a thin line of sweat dripping from the start of my spine down my back. It was so hot my back was crying. She started the conversation, with “Rudri, I have something to tell you.” She said this with a defined accent, her British roots not lost in her language. There was a small pause before she entered back into her conversation. I thought, in the ten seconds that passed, she was going to tell me, “I am pregnant or we are moving or I am thinking about moving my daughter to another school.”
Those were all likely scenarios based on the friendship we shared. Instead, she told me, “Rudri, I know you will understand and that is why I am telling you. I have a brain tumor and it doesn’t look good. The prognosis is grim.” My poker face always failed me when I needed it the most. I sensed the horror register in my face. And she saw it too. She says to me, “Don’t Rudri.” In that second, I got it. I steered the conversation into hope and the need to shun statistics about various survival numbers. I told her if she needed anything, I would definitely do more than talk, but be wherever she needed me to be and whatever moment. She talked about her children, age 5 and 7, and how she has started to make videos about various things she would like them to know. As she uttered these words, a faint numbness struck my heart and the noise of laughter, the smell of sunscreen betrayed the gravity of this conversation.
I lost my friend Katy almost two weeks ago. We shared many memories. And this is what I remember about her.
I remember sitting with Katy in her favorite Indian restaurant, watching how her fingers weren’t afraid to take another dip into the lentils. We’ve shared many laughs over a plate of Indian food and Ethiopian food. She may have been born in the land of Fish and chips, but she had a deep love of curries.
I remember having discussions under the gazebo of her backyard porch. She would point out her husband’s latest purchase at Costco. She looked like a little girl curled up in her blanket and we would talk about our love of books while our children played on the backyard swing set.
I remember Katy’s resilience during her illness. She didn’t stop moving or let her illness define her. A few weeks after her first major brain surgery, she was climbing on her horse, riding again. When we talked about her riding, she told me, “Riding is the only time I don’t think about what is happening to me.”
I remember Katy’s expression of gratitude. As doctors, nurses, and therapists piled in and out of her room like a mini-traffic jam, no matter what, she always said two words, “Thank You.” Quite fittingly, her last blog post, dated June 25th, was entitled “Thank You” where she graciously thanked family and friends for all their support.
I remember Katy’s love of her children. I put together a slide show for her daughter’s birthday and remember how much she smiled and cried looking at images of her children holding turtles, rabbits, and posing with the parrot. She kept telling me, “Play again.” I saw a mother’s love in her eyes, the laughter and heartache brimming at the bottom of her eyes.
This post is dedicated to my friend Katy. I will never forget the lessons you’ve taught me. Love and miss you.
Oh Rudri, my heart goes out to you and to Katy’s family. It is so difficult losing a friend and so sad in the prime of her life. I lost a dear friend to cancer many years ago…she was like Katy, strong, grateful, and loving.
Thanks for your condolences. It is difficult especially when it is abrupt and happens way to soon. I appreciate you taking the time out to pay your respects to Katy. It means more to me than you will know. xoxo
Rudri, I’m so very sorry about Katy. What a terrible loss to you and to her family. You’ve written a beautiful tribute to your friend. xoxo
Thanks for your condolences. I wanted her tribute to reflect who she was, strong, loving, and graceful. Much appreciation for your support. Thank you friend. xoxo
I am so sorry that you have lost your friend, Katy. I’m sure that it was very difficult for her to tell anyone about her tumor, but she trusted you. That says a lot about you. And you were there for her throughout her illness. That says a lot about you, too.
Thanks so much for your compliment. Katy made it easy for me to be her friend. I was often impressed by her grace and her ability to be in the moment knowing what she would face in the future. I appreciate you taking the time to pay your respects. Thanks again.
Oh Rudri. This is heartbreaking. Much much too soon, as you say.
What a true friend you have been. I am so sorry for your loss.
Thanks Wolf for paying your respects. It was really easy being Katy’s friend. She taught me so much and I am grateful that I intersected with her. xoxo
I’m crying as I write this. I am so very sorry for your loss. Big, big Texas sized hugs to you and Katy’s family. You have written a beautiful tribute to your friend. You are a wonderful person and a great friend, Rudri, and I’m sure you were a source of comfort for Katy.
Thanks for your hugs and warm wishes. I appreciate you taking the time to pay your respects. Katy was easy to love. I was amazed at how many friends came out to support her and her family during her illness. The common denominator was of course Katy.
Hope you and the family are doing well. I will email you soon.
What a wonderful post….and I had almost made it through today without crying about the loss of our friend. Your words on Sunday were beautiful, I know that your friendship meant so much to her.
I am amazed at the circle of friends that Katy had. You, I know, provided her with so much joy and laughter. Your words were heartfelt on Sunday and I could feel how much you miss her. I am glad my tribute to her resonated with you. Thanks for letting me know.
Rudri, I am so sorry for your loss and for Katy’s family. Heartbreaking and so sad.
A beautiful tribute for your friend. I send you strength and hugs.
Ayala: Thanks for your condolences. I know, unfortunately, that you understand this kind of grief. Appreciate you sending your warmth and hugs my way. xoxo
Your post hits close to home. A close friend of mine was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June. He has a 3 yo and a 6 yo – two boys. We’ve shared so many good times together. I can only be positive and hopeful around him and he seems to carry a similar disposition as your friend. If anyone can beat cancer and his horrible prognosis, it would be him – but I fear the worst. I’m sorry for your loss.
Rudri, I am so sorry. This is so heartbreaking, for you and for Katy’s young children and husband and parents…
Maybe it’s timely for me to be reading this now given the summer I have had…I feel I can read and comment on your post from a different place now. I lost, very suddenly, a very young colleague in July and my whole way of thinking about life has shifted…I sit here with a broken leg right now and all I can feel is gratitude that not more was taken.
Thank you for the beautiful post. I didn’t know Katy but her story will stay with me.
What a terrible loss of a wonderful person.
I am so sorry for your loss, Rudri.