You know those moments in life when you are stopped in your tracks and forced to acknowledge your life's connection to someone else? I had one of those moments while doing laundry. This may sound silly, but I was reminded of doing an almost identical load of laundry about 1 year ago, when I was nearing the end of my pregnancy and preparing the nursery for our little one. It was so exciting to do that first load of baby items, and to fold each outfit while dreaming of the tiny body that would fill it, wear it out, grow in it and then grow right out of it. So many of the items had people attached to them. People who had generously gifted tiny onsies, or teddy bear hats, or duck towels. In particular I remember folding up a Winnie the Pooh blanket that one of my patients had given me.
This patient was someone I had known for a very long time, since the beginning of her cancer journey. Her type of cancer was aggressive and difficult to treat. We visited every time she came for treatments even though she had no nutritional problems and was handling the chemo like a champ. We would talk briefly about how she was doing with her cancer and then the rest of our time would be spent discussing her job, her kids, her husband and her life in general. She just liked to connect with me on a personal level, a fact which I respected given the uncertainty of her situation and the distance she traveled, usually alone, to receive treatments.
When I became pregnant she was overjoyed for me. We spent lots of time talking about the baby and my preparations, how I was feeling and coping. She shared stories with me from her own pregnancies and offered friendly advice and wisdom. A few weeks prior to my delivery she came for her treatment bearing gifts for my little one: two Winnie the Pooh Blankets and some hooded baby towels. I was touched, mostly by the obvious joy giving the gift brought to her.
When I returned from maternity leave, my schedule was shortened and our paths did not cross for several months. My co-workers informed me that she continued to ask about me at every visit and they shared baby pictures with her, which she was thrilled with. About 2 months ago, her file came across my desk and I had this feeling that I should call her to say hi, but it was a busy day and I put if off for the next week. Three days later she passed away.
Yesterday I pulled one of the Winnie the Pooh blankets out of the dryer as I have done countless times before, but for some reason this day was different, and the sight of the blanket filled me with memories and sorrow for this beautiful woman that was so eager to give, and with whom I did not get to speak one last time. I would have told her how blessed I am at having had her in my life, how brave she was for fighting as hard as she could, how I will tell my little one about her when I snuggle him into the blanket and hug him as close as I can. Every time I see that blanket I think of her and I am reminded of all the beautiful ways in which I am connected to those around me, like an intricate web that is woven throughout my life. I am reminded to always say the important things, the big things, the little things, to those I care about and to never wait for a time when life is less busy to appreciate all that I am blessed with.
Annette, I am happy to have called you friend. You are missed.