“… Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going.” -Rilke
I learned over the weekend that a friend passed away.
I had just sat down to a table at Garcia’s for burritos and horchata with Emily and Tammy before Addie’s reading at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Park, when I made the mistake of looking at my phone. There was the message: she was gone.
The news was something of a shock, like touching your hand to a hot stove. I was thankful in that moment that I wasn’t alone; a beautiful evening surrounded by friends proved a welcome distraction from the triggering affect of death now, like my mother has died all over again. The next afternoon hubs and I went for a winter hike where I could let myself trudge along in silence and reflection. The solitude, the sun casting long shadowy pines onto snow, the wind, the sound of my own boots crunching along the trail. It was the prayer I didn’t know how to utter.
Truthfully, I didn’t know her that well. In fact, we’d never met in person. We found each other through this strange web of connections known as the internet, which people are always quick to categorize as somehow less real. We connected through a series of links related to the Etsy Pinkwashing Debacle of 2012. She had metastatic breast cancer just like my mom. We bonded through our shared longing for a better way to honor those affected by cancer.
This I do for her today, sans pink ribbons and meaningless platitudes.
I’ll never have the privilege of standing at her grave or remembering the sound of her laugh years from now, but I’ll remember her spirit. I’ll remember her words, her story, her tenacity, her love. I’ll remember what it felt like to connect with her, another survivor, and how it made me feel less alone. I’ll remember the way that I felt her light, all the way over here in my little corner of the internet.
How do we honor the dead?
By taking up their tenacity, by telling their stories, by reflecting their light.
Rest well, sweet friend. You will be missed.
Out of respect for her and her family, I’ve chosen not to link to my friend’s blog or social media. This post is in memory of her, but it is also in honor of all those affected by cancer. If you or a loved one are living with it today, my thoughts and prayers are with you.