Today I learned a hard lesson I will remember for the rest of my life. Last evening I changed my mind 3 times about going to see my dear friend who was terminal from a one month shy of a 4-year cancer battle. My plans were to wait and go today at 4: OO. But before I could get there to say goodbye, she left this place and didn’t wait.
Two weeks ago I sat with her for nearly two hours, sang to her, prayed with her, talked about old stuff. She smiled and the only word she could really articulate was “ok” but her eyes talked back at me and the inflections in every “okay” let her personality shine through.
We had been friends for eight years. So many memories we shared…
Every time I traveled overseas, I had to bring her a rock from the foreign soil. She had an awesome rock collection all labeled from various places.
She and I worked and talked about gardening, plants, and bugs, she taught me how to talk and call the Osprey bird. I always kept her waiting for the right day to take me to purchase the perfect citric tree to plant in my yard. That never happened because of me. But I dedicated three plants she bought me as a Vicki hill in my front yard. My best friend thought I was nerdy and weird but it was a special delivery early Sunday morning birthday gift she brought just for me and the plants were in my favorite color, purple.
On each one of my trips I flew away, she would write me a note in my journal and I could hardly wait to read it when I got on the plane. It was always a little joke or a note for me to come back alive in one piece and not trust and talk to everyone I meet.
When my grandmother died, I had a hard time traveling on the road adjacent to her home. I would literally break down in tears as soon as I hit highway 17. One night I called her and from that day on when I made the turn, we talked until I could travel it without crying. It must have been 9 months later before these weekly Wednesday night conversations ceased, but she made me promise to call each time I needed to speak.
I remember the first time I kept my good friend’s new baby while she and her husband went out-of-town, my dog scratched the baby when he pulled his hair. I called Mrs. Stangle, yelling and screaming: she stopped her dinner rushed right over, examined the baby and calmed me down and assured me I didn’t need to rush him to ER. It was much later I found out it was a hush-hush joke between she and my best friend that I was way too sensitive, the baby was better than me with just a little scratch you could hardly see that would heal probably before the sun rose again.
She let that same dog visit with me on teacher’s work day. I kept him in my office in the classroom and she came by to see him. It was our secret. She knew he was so special to me because she and I had spent months searching the internet for just the right kind of dog for me. But on one Miami trip my mom gave him to me.
During my seminary years, she proofed my long papers, marked them up in red. When I complained she was harder than the instructor she would always say. “I don’t understand your intellectual language, so speak it in laymen terms.” She helped me to break it down to a fifth grade level, but keep the content at high level.
As my boss, one day she walked in to do an observation, she must have seen it in my face I didn’t want her there, I was cramping in pain and frustrated with those little angels. In less than 2 minutes she asked if I mind if she taught my reading lesson. Her explanation to the kids, “She missed the classroom and wanted to teach a little bit. She asked if they mind and she told me to sit down and take a break. I was so relieved I could have cried.
When she was apprehensive about going forward in a new opportunity, I encouraged her to go ahead go on and apply for the position. And wouldn’t you know, in about a week or so she was a new Principal. We laughed many times about that Sunday morning sermon, in the middle of Walmart’s socks and stockings area. I said she should have been in church somewhere but her reply was, “ God had met her there.”
In my book on Motherhood, she was the first to read as I wrote, one day she stopped, put it down. Said she could not handle reading anymore and would never pick it up again. She declared the story of my life inspired her more to deal with the difficult cases in children because I turned out all right. Sometimes when she looked at them, she thought of me. She encouraged to share myself with more and to open up so I could bring others hope.
The day I took the plunge to go, and finally get the nerves to put a diamond stud in my nose. Vicki sat on my back patio with me with my swollen and bloody nose. She refused to scold me when after I complained how I was too nervous to go outside and show anyone. She said, “ah it just looks like a piece of glitter” No one could tell, but of course, she was telling a tale.
When she was first diagnosed with cancer of the brain, I was speechless. How I remember that day oh so well, the first signs showed up on her 5oth birthday. October 13th. No words I could find to say but she was tough and fought hard, so much so, that after a while things seemed to be okay.
The week she came home from having her first brain operation, I jumped in her bed with her…talked and made jokes to cheer her up that she was still just as cute, smart as ever before even with swollen eyes, and bruised face. She let me peek and look and see everything everywhere. It was so funny her husband came in, chuckled and made a bout face right out the door. My best friend and her mother just shook their heads at our scene.
WOW, IT DOESN’T SEEM REAL. I will miss her SO MUCH. Many roles we transitioned in and out. At first she was once my boss, in fact, she hired me when in moved in the area. Then she became my advisor on various issues. We sat and talked about intellectual things and she gave me books to read; journals, recipes to try (which I never did), a myriad of all sorts of things. Later she became a friend, and a friend indeed. She supported every single one of my endeavors, not just with words but also she sowed seeds.
She shared with me about girly stuff, men topics, the past, her young days, old music, Methodist hymns and of course we always had to debate about beliefs and her stubborn will. She fussed at me about living so careless and carefree and to not be so naïve, smiling, speaking and trusting of people.
To me it was funny how hot she would get for me posting my traveling plans on FB or hanging out and driving home late. She would say, people are crazy Gewanda do share with the world your plans.
I got a message somehow via text, email, my friend or a FB inbox whenever she went in. I would just laugh it off or say sarcastically “yes ma’am”
I would send her text messages with a simple “I love you” she had to wait let one of her daughters show her how to respond. Until finally, she got it down and then through her texts, she would communicate her tone.
I did not want to face what she began to embrace; she sent me things as she begin to understand that maybe her time was near. A collection of books I’d admired on one visit. Then she gave me a collection of programs and hymns from her church in Kentucky. She got tired of me preaching to her so that was her proving to me she really was a Christian: Indeed the end of that story and the intimacy of the past two weeks are way too personal and special to share. However, today I do believe she will be in heaven waiting for me to get there.
I could go on and on and I’m hating she didn’t wait. I will never be able to say good-bye to her in person per say and maybe one day I will be okay; she will live on in my heart from this moment on. Right now I AM TRULY DEVASTATED, SHOCKED, SICK TO MY STOMACH AND VERY NUMB… Just last night I said, “Tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll see her one last time, but my tomorrow was too late.
REST IN PEACE: Mrs. Vicki Stangle
Love you always,