My friend Willow (Wendy was her real name) passed away yesterday after a 5 year battle with cancer. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that Wendy was one of those people you encounter only once in a lifetime. She was and is a huge inspiration to everyone who met her. I have never met anyone who was so strong and positive in the face of enormous suffering. Beneath my deep sadness, I am happy that now Wendy is now free of pain. The last time I saw her, she spent over an hour just playing on the floor with Chloe, laughing and giggling, playing peek-a-boo, making silly faces. How much energy and happiness they gave one another! In those moments I saw the circle of life, there in my house, in the glow of the afternoon sun.
Two years ago, just before Wendy started her next round of chemo treatments, she decided to cut off all her hair. She wanted to donate her long locks before the drugs made her hair thin and fall out in patches. That was Wendy, always thinking of how to help others even when she had little to give. So in my empty kitchen, before my new cabinets were installed, Wendy sat in a chair and let me cut her hair. I had never cut anyone's hair before so I was nervous, not wanting to nip her or ruin the hair donation! It was difficult for both of us, but we got through, the sound of our tears and our laughter bouncing off the walls of that big empty room.
Someday soon, I will probably be in the kitchen again, with Chloe in a high chair waiting for me to cut her hair. And I will think back to that day with Wendy and I will tell Chloe the story of her Aunty that left this world too soon.
I've spent the better part of the last day looking at old photographs and reading old emails. In one, Wendy had quoted something I once said to her: "God created our life as a package. We cannot pick and choose only to go through the good and happy times, but we have to live the bad and unhappy moments, to experience life as a whole. We need to embrace life, good and bad and live it to its fullest. I believe only through that, can we truly know what life is all about." And she did. She lived a full life. She embraced her cancer and used it as motivation to tell her family and friends how much she loved them every day; to volunteer her accounting skills to nonprofit organizations when she no longer had the energy to work a full-time job; to ride 200km in two days to support cancer research; to be positive and optimistic and talk of the future and be an inspiration for others in their own battles; to epitomize strength and love and caring; and to truly take this gift given by God, this one life, and eke every last moment out of it.
Thank you Wendy for walking through my life. I can't wait to see you again someday.
Rest now, Wendy. xoxo.