“Celebrating Life…” That’s what the cake said…and that’s what we did. The pink ink posse gathered for what was unimaginable – saying our collective goodbye to our sister, friend, daughter, mother, and wife. On the ride out to Phoenix my heart was as heavy as you can imagine, and my head bowed with disbelief. I’m a chick who has lost both of her parents, so honestly I know loss. I know how it feels, smells, tastes and aches. But, I’ve never imagined losing a friend – one of my best, best girls with whom I shared some of everything about this parallel life we were living until she took an unwanted detour into the cancer lane. This loss is NOT the natural order of things…This was not in my playbook. Her journey over the past two years defied my understanding and honestly, shook my faith.
Even before we arrived, the collective began sharing through a flurry of texts and emails, to hold each other up, to see where we might help or sleep, and to begin our journey on the long road to learning to lean on and support each other instead of her. Really, I knew we would do it, get through this weekend that is – those are the kinds of people that pink ink surrounded herself with. It was said several times this weekend, that pink ink expected a lot of her friends, and we were not about to disappoint her now. But I, honestly, even as the “big sister” I didn’t know how I was going to get through those few days. I reflected on the messages that I gave another dear friend when she lost her son, that you just have to put one foot in front of the other. I saw a card in the airport with a perfect quote from Winston Churchill – “When you’re going through Hell…Keep Going,” and that’s what I intended to do. I just fixed my mind on the unbelievable things that she dealt with during her journey in the cancer lane, and I strapped up those big girl pants and willed myself to be stronger for the B’s, for her parents and his parents and for all the others who might need to see me standing up.
In the midst of it all, as difficult as it was, there was unimaginable beauty and comfort was streaming in from every direction. (I feel confident that the Bs felt it too.) It was as if I was wearing a sign saying “Fragile: Handle with care.” There was the person who offered to put my bag and coat in the overhead, to the lady on the plane who asked me if I wanted her Vanity Fair magazine. Off the plane, I met up with Jemina from NYC (Barb and Brendon’s lil sis from B school and Tia Mina to lil B). After stopping by the house to let the Bs know we were there, to pick up our assignments, do whatever we could, and to face what we dreaded – the house without our girl there (come back to that later). Angels were all around me every where I looked. The hubby of one of my best girls from Chicago, was sitting in the living room talking to Big B when I arrived. Mina and I headed off in a bit of a daze to find some food. We stumbled upon a great little bistro looking for some comfort food and some wine where a wonderful compassionate waitress lead us to the menu favorites and told us we could take the rest of our wine home with us. Feeling grateful for a full stomach, a warm shower, a place to stay, and a roommate, I crashed. Our morning was spent having breakfast with more close members of the posse, Lori and Mike (from NYC… Lori and Barb share a love of pop culture among many other things), and then shopping for the “right white” for the evening ceremonies. Nobody, including Barb’s mother, wanted to be dressed incorrectly. We knew Barb was expecting us to bring out best selves there. My hubby and another one of my best girls from law school (who knew Barb and Brendon in NYC when he was in B school) arrived together the next day to hold me up on either side if I needed them to – and I did. Together we found another great spot to eat late Friday night and shared more comfort food to get us ready for Saturday. That night, I was grateful for my husband’s arms to hold me, even while we left our little chicks at home alone. (They are old enough and were o.k.) Other random acts of kindness continued all weekend and buoyed me, keeping this red ink chick afloat, all weekend. In turn, I shared that comfort with the Bs and others, some complete strangers like the mom from lil Bs school who cried in my arms yesterday.
The services were truly beautiful and just what she would have wanted. The organizational service on Friday night where we got ccccccccccccccc to see all of her many groups honor the group chick that she truly was. The women dressed in white from one end of the room to another, the candles lit, song sung, and flowers placed highlighted our connections to her and to each other and gave honor to the work that she led during her, way too short, time with us. Beautiful pictures of her and of her and the Bs captured her spirit. Looking back, I can remember that she was always “on a mission” to make one thing or another happen, usually through her many groups, to do something that mattered. I wonder if she knew somehow.
Our Saturday morning in the Secret Garden at ASU was unique and special – like Barb. As her dear friend, her “person” Iris (from Charlotte) brought a message to soothe our souls, and our dear “Mimo” (Big B’s mom, who has adopted all of us) opened her voice (…and WHAT a voice!) to the heavens and we gazed upon the simple, elegant, open to the skies, standing room only crowd of faces from all over, we knew we were honoring her right!.
A couple of us “aunties” took lil B to breakfast on Sunday and tried to feed her some more love. I hung with her most of the day finding some quiet time to talk, hugging as much as I could, while making plans t0 text, see each other again soon, and to find our way back way to the inkwell this summer.
On Sunday, those who were still in town, enjoyed an incredible “releasing of the doves” ceremony that was put on by the CBBC (Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer) a group that Barb helped to spearhead. We were reminded in all that her spirit is set free, her suffering is over, and that her journey while short, was full, and connected so many of us. [They played some random song during the release, but I was hearing Maxwell's "Pretty Wings."]
On my last night in Phoenix, I went out with a few of our Phoenix Links’ sisters, who have become like family, during this journey. I joined them for a drink and for a movie (Best Man Holiday) and we laughed and cried together like we’d known each other forever, interjecting “Barb” phrases like “word” and “really” where appropriate and soothing each other’s souls. She was right there in the movie with us!
Over the course of the weekend in Phoenix, I learned some things that gave me tremendous comfort. As I sat with Brendon’s mom, Barb’s mom, and several members of the posse out on the front porch at her house, where she loved to sit, the beautiful sun pouring down on us, and the majesty of Camelback mountain in front of us, and shared stories, I felt some small stirring of peace. I learned that she was surrounded by love at all times during her last days on this side, and that the warmth and light that she shared stayed with her until the end. She liked being touched on her legs, and as crazy as it sounds, a little dog brought her some joy from her hospital bed. Her hands were held, cards and magazines were read to her. I learned that, like all of us, even the hospice nurses who only knew her for a very short while fell in love with her and were shedding tears as she passed from this life.
Man, I miss my girl like you can’t imagine, but I am grateful…grateful that she isn’t feeling pain anymore…grateful that in too short of a time, she left us with so much….grateful that she had the chance to connect so many of her dots…grateful for having another angel on the other side who made sure that the first college acceptance letter for my #1 son (whom she loved dearly) was waiting in the mail when I arrived home!…grateful for all of her spirit that lives in “lil B”…grateful that my unfortunate experience on this loss journey tells me that my heart (our hearts) will heal in time, and great memories will replace emptiness…grateful for pink ink’s reminders to live, to love and to touch our tatas for as many days as we are granted…
Happy Thanksgiving all…