Since I blogged last, I have had three friends pass away and a beloved uncle. My friend Pam Williams, who commented here quite often (when I would post something--rare the last 3 years), was diagnosed with breast cancer last February. She went through chemo and had a mastectomy, and it seemed she was going to mend and be with us for more time. Then things took a rather sudden turn for the worse and they found cancer elsewhere. Only about a month after her mastectomy, she passed away. Though she and her husband Roger had only lived in our neighborhood for the past several years (5 or 6, I think) I had gotten to know her especially through book club and she had also generously shared her time with Zion as a writing mentor and tutor. I have missed her a lot.
That same month, I found out through Facebook that my childhood friend Cassandra (Cassie/Cass to me growing up) died. She had dealt with a lot of health issues over the summer and had dealt with diabetes since she was about 19, I think, and had also battled cancer in her late 20s, but with her positive outlook and zest for life, I didn't know that things were so serious. We had lost touch after elementary school, but reconnected several years ago on Facebook, and it had been a joy to get to know her again. Our elementary school friendship is filled with so many sweet memories. She had one of those large "tricycles" with the basket in the back, and we would give each other rides in the basket. We called it our Buddy Bike, and we called ourselves Best Buddies. I remember setting up an intercom system that I'd built at school in our rooms so we could talk to each other from our rooms. We made up our own dance routine to the oldies song "Lollipop." We loved playing Popples as well as with other toys in elaborate worlds we would create. For the first day of 4th grade, we dressed as matching as we could, complete with denim skirts, colored suspenders, and side ponytails! We had such fun times. When she died, it felt like those parts of my childhood somehow died, too. It made me sad that there wasn't another person who shared those memories with me anymore. I believe that she is still existing somewhere, but it felt like a profound loss. She also was the sort of person who brought joy and delight to everyone she knew, so I know that her death has affected many who were closer to her than I. It's just sad when people like that die, and even sadder when they are still quite young.
That same month, I heard that my college friend Aaron Boyce was diagnosed with a very difficult to treat brain tumor. The family was looking for options to treat it, and they did pursue some of those options, but by Thanksgiving it was pretty apparent that there wasn't anything more to be done. He passed away around Christmas.
My uncle Bill Wagstaff, in his 70s, passed away unexpectedly just a couple of weeks ago. My memories of Uncle Bill are of his love for jokes and silliness and laughing. His family owns a couple of cabins up at Lake Couer d'Alene in northern Idaho, and they have always been so kind to let family visit there and use their cabins for visits and reunions. My siblings and parents were able to travel up to Washington for the funeral, but I couldn't make the trip.
It all makes thoughts of mortality and what kind of life I want to live swirl through my mind. I have come to realize over the past couple of years that somethings are much less important to me than I thought they were. I've also come to let go of most of the certainty I felt earlier in life about big questions about the purpose of life or the nature of God and eternity. I used to take comfort in the feeling that I KNEW what the purpose of life was and what awaited us after death. Now I find the ambiguity and uncertainty more comfortable. I am okay trusting in what I feel is a loving God, even though I don't know the particulars of how it will all work out. I feel most confident that my own role is to love others and try to make space for others to also feel loved and valued.