I lost an old friend today. It wasn’t totally unexpected. Pancreatic cancer is predictably lethal, cruel, and devastating. Inevitably, the body succumbs to the immense pain and the organs shut down. That’s what happened to my mother. That is what I suspect happened to my old friend. The disease laid ruin to her body. However, there is one thing it could never do. Destroy her soul. And oh what a soul she has.
I saw it in high school when we met. Her enormous smile lifted me out of more than my fair share of moments of teenage angst. She was the person I laughed with, cried with, and “goofed off” with. She encouraged me, called me out when I needed it, and convinced me that I needed to go to Hawaii with her on the senior class trip. Trust me, I needed convincing. I was more interested in going to Greece than hanging out with members of our senior class. In typical fashion, Sheryl persisted until I saw the error of my thinking! She made that trip memorable – the smiles, the laughter, the dancing, and the infamous trip to Benihana’s. Her sister was our built in chaperone which gave us more freedom to stay out and cause for the other students on the trip to complain to the other chaperones about our lack of interaction with the people that we never hung around with in high school in the first place! Needless to say, we both found that particularly amusing.
I wish I could say that we kept in better touch after high school. I wish I had more moments to share. Unfortunately, life intervened and, without the benefit of social media, we lost touch after my graduation from college in 1984. However, we found each other again in 2008 (ah the wonders of Facebook). She was the same Sheryl I always knew… loving, caring, funny, and authentic. We talked about getting together, either in Wisconsin or in Connecticut where I live. We caught up when I was in Wisconsin in November 2012 but little did we know then how little time we would have.
However, even in that fleeting moment, I saw the one constant. Her soul. It is this same soul which refused to allow pancreatic cancer to ravage her optimism, love, and kindness. Her soul which continued to see the beauty in each and every day even while the disease ravaged her body. Her soul which continued to reach out to the family and friends who touched her life.
In an odd way, I was reminded of that today as I drove to work. The news of her passing had brought up a lot of things for me.. reminders of her.. memories of my mother’s passing from pancreatic cancer… a heartbreaking sadness for the family left behind and the difficult path of grief ahead. In the midst of that, I was compelled to play a song.. something I really wasn’t up to doing but did anyway. Ironically, the song that came on my phone was a very bad remix of Come Baby Come… and then I heard it… a disparaging comment about my music choice which was, well, so “Sherylesqe.” I smiled.. and, in the words of the song, said “you gotta give me loving, you got to give me some.” Then, I felt it… in a very warm heated car I was instantly cold… all over. Thanks for the love Sheryl… some may think I’m crazy but I know in my heart it was you.