#755 – Dick Bernard: Going Gently
My wife’s many-years-long friend, also named Cathy, passed away last week.
A few hours ago we attended her funeral, a small quiet occasion in the chapel of a St. Paul Church where her parents – both still alive and in attendance last night – became engaged to be married 70 years ago.
Cathy was, the Memorial card said, just 66. There has been, and apparently will not be, an obituary.
It was, I gather, exactly as she wanted.
She announced what turned out to be her final illness just weeks ago, in a brief e-mail to friends:
“My dear friends, pardon me for sending this info in an e-mail.
I have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It started in the tail which is very hard to detect. I will be starting chemo next week and [we] will be staying with one of my sisters.
Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.
And your friendship over these many years.
Understated though it was, her farewell last night was one of the most profound funerals I’ve ever attended.
One of her niece’s defined her Aunt’s successful life well. Successful seemed to mean, I gather, a life well lived as the oldest sibling of five, an Aunt, colleague, friend…with a passion for social justice.
She made a difference, profoundly, quietly.
Cathy and her friend, my wife, also named Cathy (their birth names, Catherine and Kathleen) were friends for many years, dating from time together at 3M. As friends do, they had developed a ritual over the years: they scheduled hair dressing appointments together, and had a long lunch somewhere afterwards.
I could tell you more about her, including her name, and I’m sure I have a photo, but somehow those seem to cross a boundary she wished left uncrossed.
Apparently, she left with the constant and quiet attention of her parents and siblings and spouse, just as she wished.
Today, we leave for several days of vacation (for me, a welcome vacation from this computer!).
One of the specific book selections I’m taking along on this short trip is one just recommended by my friend, Steve: “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware.
My selection has nothing to do with the quiet celebration of Cathy’s life – I had selected it before last night. But somehow its significance has just racheted up a notch. I’m not getting any younger, after all and attending at endings (funerals and the like) is now far more common than beginnings (as baptisms).
Life goes on. As my coffee shop, Caribou, likes to add: “stay awake for it”!
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