Last Friday morning my dear friend Danuta passed away. In November she had been diagnosed with cancer. Needless to say I was in shock when I heard of her diagnosis and again, when I heard that she had passed away. It all happened so quickly.
I met Danuta just over eight years ago. We became immediate friends. We were both on a mission: the mission of helping our mutual friend deal with the illness of her young child, and his tragic passing. We became a team. Together we coordinated transportation for our friend to the hospital to see her son. Together we orchestrated visiting schedules, dinners, distractions and everything in between. Together we helped in any way we could. In all the tragedy, confusion and chaos we became friends.
Over the years our contact was sporadic and usually by chance. At the mall. At the grocery store. Danuta worked at the Early Years Centre that I brought my kids to every week. When she was in the office we would sit and chat and catch up. When she heard that my first son was in serious condition at the NICU she offered to help in any way. When she heard we had a second son less than a year latter, she enthusiastically offered to babysit for a date night. When she heard our daughter needed surgery she prayed. Usually, when we met up we would just chat and laugh and reminisce. I was always so happy to run into Danuta.
When I heard she was sick I was shocked. One afternoon I saw a little tea mug with the word believe scrawled across. I bought some soothing tea packets and wrapped them up together and headed to the hospital. Danuta had told everyone no visitors and I accepted that. So, my intention was to simply drop my little gift off at the nurses station and be on my way. In fact, I even brought my four year old son with me thinking it would take but a minute to drop of the gift and card. When the nurse saw me and DJ she said we should visit. So we were brought to her room. Danuta looked tired and thin. But boy, did she smile when she saw me. There was no awkwardness. Instead we just chatted. Like old friends. Like war veterans. We had traveled this path once before. Together.
Danuta commented on our family photo I enclosed in the card and then she took a few moments to read my card. I had chosen a card of hope and of encouragement. Inside, I scrawled the word believe - just like on the tea mug. And then I listed everything I hoped that Danuta believed in. Tomorrow. Life. God. Friends. Medicine. Doctors. Family. Hope. Yourself. Sunsets. Stormy days. Peaceful breezes. Love. Happiness. I think I wrote about thirty-five items. I believed in them all, and I hoped she did too. Danuta smiled, she grasped the mug to her heart and, with a tear in her eye and a lump in her throat replied, " Yes Laura, I do believe. Thank you."
That was the last time I saw Danuta.
I believe she is in a better place. I believe that she is at peace. I believe that she led a wonderful life and touched so many people. I believe I will never forget Danuta. I believe this world is a better place because of her. I believe I am very lucky, honoured and privileged to have known Danuta.
Sadly, her obituary indicated that her service would be a private ceremony. Family only.
I believe her family has the right to morn how they see fit. I believe her family must make the arrangements that best meet their needs and best meet Danuta's wishes.
But, I am sad. I believe in celebrating life, but I also think I need closure. Being able to participate in a burial ritual or ceremony would help me find closure and peace.
I am not family. I cannot attend. I guess I need to simply continue to believe. Believe in Danuta. Believe in life. Believe that Danuta will always be with me, in my thoughts, and in myprayers and that she will be up in God's kingdom watching over me - helping me to believe.