Three years ago, I lost a very dear friend to inflammatory breast cancer. Joan and I were in high school when we first met and were roommates for one year in college. We saw one another through times of heartache and times of great joy. When we married, our husbands also became friends and eventually we became Auntie and Uncle to one another’s children. Though, for most of our adult lives we lived a long day’s drive from one another, our families got together at least once a year. Our oldest sons are six weeks apart in age and our next children are almost as close. In fact, Joan used to jokingly tell people that we planned our pregnancies together! At the time of her death, we had been friends for 37 years. I still miss her a lot but life goes on.
After Joan’s death, we continued to visit her husband, Rod. When he first began to see other women, he worried about how I would feel. Richard assured him that it was okay; that we both recognized that life must go on.
Now, Rod has a new woman in his life and in his home. We met her for the first time last week when we spent a night with them on our way to a family reunion. I wondered how it would feel to see another woman in Joan’s house. I wondered if all traces of Joan’s presence there would be gone. I needn’t have worried. When I saw how comfortable Rod and Eunice are together and how she so clearly cares for him, I knew that this was a good thing and when I went upstairs to bed, there at the top of the stairs, was the framed photo of Joan and I that was taken shortly after her cancer was diagnosed.
I think poor Eunice was much more nervous about meeting me than I was about meeting her but by the time we stopped again for coffee on our way home yesterday, she had relaxed. She showed me how, with a few changes, Joan’s craft room had become her sewing room and she offered me one of the lovely crocheted afghans that Joan had made.
Yes, life goes on and I think that’s a very good thing. When I think of the pain that Rod went through during Joan’s four and a half year battle with cancer and his devastation at losing her, I’m delighted that he has another chance at happiness.
When another friend of ours remarried about a year after losing his first wife to cancer, tongues wagged. He isn’t honouring her memory, some said. We had watched as he tenderly cared for his wife during her several years of illness and we were there to witness his tears the day she died. We knew that choosing to share his life with another in no way diminished his love for his first wife. In fact, he told us himself that if remaining alone for years on end could somehow bring her back to him, he would wait but, of course, he knew that couldn’t happen.
It was during the drive from this friend’s wedding ceremony to the reception that Richard turned to me and told me that if anything ever happens to him, he wants me to feel free to marry again. I told him that I wouldn’t wish years of loneliness on him either. Hopefully, we grow old together but if we don’t, life must go on for the one who is left behind. I’ll always miss Joan but I’m glad that Rod has found someone new and that his life is moving on.