It is four years ago today that my best friend and sister-in-law died of pancreatic cancer.
As I look at her picture above my desk, I miss her as though it were yesterday. Mary Jo was generous, loving, kind. She worked tirelessly in her church, served countless dinners for Sons of Norway, read for the blind, made hundreds of quilts for the Linus Project, and was a caring friend to many. She never revealed a confidence. Tears still burn my eyes when I think of her and I think of her often.
It is in her honor that I share an excerpt from the chapter “Candles Floating on the Pool” from This Path We Share:
Every day the sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky. Every day Mary Jo’s cheeks became more like parchment and sunk further into her bone structure. Every day her thin arms struggled harder to grasp the side railing of her bed to turn to her left side, her skin damp with the effort. Every day her words became a little harder to understand. Often Les and I sat squeezed together in the big chair in the lobby (of the Hospice of the Valley in Arizona) as if we could create a cocoon and ward off our anguish.
One evening as I kissed Mary Jo’s forehead and said good-bye, she mumbled, “It’s hard to leave.”
“Yes,” I said, "but perhaps it is time.”
Early in the morning, five days later, I was on my way to Sherman House, only two minutes from my best friend’s bedside, when my cell phone rang.
As I drove back to the house to tell Ralph and Les that our beloved Mary Jo was gone, I thought back to those beautiful candles floating precariously on the pool. The lights had flickered across the water, offering shimmering memories, shining hope, unaware how truly vulnerable they—and we—were.
(Excerpted from This Path We Share: Reflecting on 60 Years of Marriage © 2010 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)
May we each honor those whom we have loved and lost - today and every day.