I started my college life at Urbana College in Ohio. Second quarter my freshman year a new transfer student moved into my life, for the next two years we were joined at the hip. I introduced Josie to Piper who already lived across the hall from me in the dorm. Piper was a sophomore, but the three of us hung out together when our schedules allowed.
At the end of my sophomore year I decided on yet another major, pre-pharmacy, and transferred to VCU to better my chances to get in to pharmacy school at MCV. I never got into MCV and settled on Geography instead. Josie, in the mean time, studied graphic design and Piper majored in elementary education.
Time goes by, as it usually does, and I didn't keep in touch with the other two as I ought've. A letter here and a phone call there lead me to learn Josie woke up one day and decided to go to dental school, got accepted at OSU, and eventually bought herself a practice. I've always admired her for that, completely changing her course in life without looking back. Several years ago I learned she had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and it had spread.
Last June when I was in Columbus for the Perl conference I got to have lunch with Piper and we got to catch up, but Josie was out of town and we didn't get to see each other. Piper filled me in on a lot of Josie and her condition, how she had sold her practice the year before, how her leg was broken but they were unable to insert a rod to fix it until the chemo round was done, how she couldn't ride her beloved horses. I kept telling myself I really needed to go back out and see her.
Saturday night I got a call on my cell; Piper was on the caller ID. My heart stopped. I knew it wasn't good news. I answered the call, Josie was still alive, but barely. Hospice had been brought in and her husband didn't think she'd last more than a couple days. Do I go now? Do I wait for the funeral? Do I want to keep her memory healthy and vibrant, or ruin that picture with a conscience-clearing visit to see her, near death, not guaranteed to even know I was there?
That little voice in my head was telling me that she would die soon, today or tomorrow, and her service would be next Monday. Don't worry about seeing Josie now, it' won't matter. Go to the service next week and be there for Piper.
When I was struggling to come up with a title for this post I tried out several possibilities, then typed 'Being There' to describe the relationship between friends. Then I just stared at it with a lump in my throat. How could I forget? Being There, the 1979 Peter Sellers film, was our favorite movie that first quarter together at school. The little theater in town didn't get a lot of new releases so Jos and I saw this movie several times. We quoted it all the time and laughed, just laughed, at all those silly things that struck us funny, our little inside jokes that lasted for years. Not until it was written and staring at me did I realize the weight of what I'd typed. How had I'd completely forgotten all about the movie until just now? Life continues to surprise. And Soothe.
11 months ago