Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Friend

My step-mother passed away from breast cancer over 3 years ago and today is her birthday.

I've been thinking of her a lot lately and wishing so much that she was still in my life.  The older I get the more I could have used her advice, and her thoughts.  She had the best things to say when you had a problem, and awlays had empathy for you.  She was one of the first people who told me about yoga, and I actually went to my first real yoga class with one of her good friends, Peri, after she died.  Leslee had a way with words, she was always very matter-of-fact and told you how it was, but was also encouraging and thoughtful.  I miss her point of view.

The older I get I miss her more and more.  She was there for me as a friend and I liked that I could relate to her in that way.  When I found a lump on my own breast (just a cyst), she went with me to get my first mammogram (ouch!).  I learned so much about cancer from her, and admired her positivity even when she was frustrated with it.  I know that it took a lot for her to get up every morning - put on a wig and do her makeup, but she always looked flawless and effortless.

She was sick for a very long time and she and my dad formed a tight bond and didn't let anyone really know just how hard it was.  It was a difficult time because I was selfish and wondered why I didn't see my dad as much as I used to, not thinking of how sick Leslee was and how he had a lot on his mind, taking care of her.  I wish that I would have spent more time with her and gotten to know her better.  I wish she had never been sick.  I wish I had been older and more aware of what was going on.  (I know that almost 4 years ago I was 29, but the difference between 29 and 33 is a big one, even though it is just a couple of years.)

I was at the hospital with her when she was very sick before she passed away.  It was the first time I had ever experienced someone dying of cancer, it was very sad.  I know she is not in pain anymore and that she watches over my dad and I.  I know that she is so happy we are so close, and that I'm here to watch out for him when she's not.  I also realize that as I write this, she would have hated this post about her, that's just how she was.  (After walking in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for years she finally said, "What has Susan G. Komen ever done for us?"  So we started "sleeping in for the cure" instead!)  My dad and Leslee have a biting wit and a sarcastic sense of humor, to know them is to love them.  And, I love her dearly and miss her - so this post today is for her.

When leaving the hospital while she was sick I listened to
this song on repeat and cried my eyes out (I still can't listen to it all the way through).  It makes me think of how many people out there are leaving the hospital or heading to one, to visit loved ones.  This event taught me compassion for others, real compassion, for the first time in my life.  That person who cuts you off or is in a hurry, maybe they are running on an hour of sleep, rushing to see their person, their love.  My dad spent a month in the hospital, over Christmas and New Years, and none of it mattered, he had to be there, for her because that's what you do.  It makes you think, and teaches you to be more accepting and forgiving of others.  There are other people out there in the world, something we tend to forget once in awhile, especially when we're young.

I know what this song is really supposed to be about, but to me, it is for Leslee, I think of her every time I hear it.  My dad and I have talked many times about when you die, the only way you still exist is with the people who remember you.  What happens when they die?  Are you then forgotten?  The lyrics speak these thoughts.  I plan on telling my children about Leslee - about her courage and strength.  That way, she will live on long after she's gone.  Be rememembered - this is so important.

Happy Birthday Leslee, I miss you.

From "Samson" by Regina Spektor

You are my sweetest downfall.
I loved you first, I loved you first.
Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth.
I have to go, I have to go.
Your hair was long when we first met.

Samson went back to bed,
not much hair left on his head.
He ate a slice of Wonderbread
and went right back to bed.
And history books forgot about us
and the Bible didn't mention us.
The Bible didn't mention us, not even once.

 (Since it is almost my birthday, this was taken very close to exactly 5 years ago.)

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