For a few days now I've been struggling with what to say about how on Friday evening we lost a dear friend to her long drawn-out argument with cancer. We didn't find out until Saturday, and when we heard we changed our evening plans to be family time and we went out to dinner and toasted our friend's life.
Like my husband, Denise was a composer; they were in the same graduate program. Denise later moved out to NYC for her doctorate degree, got a teaching job, continued to compose, and came home to MN a couple times a year. We'd see her those times, and kept in touch by phone and email in between times.
She was last here in August - just three or four weeks ago - and we had dinner together. She and Chris talked about their latest projects. We discussed class plans and dealing with students and the general challenges of a creative life in the midst of a working life. It was a good visit. Cora loved Denise, and practiced saying her name, and showed her some of her favorite books and toys. Denise seemed frailer than she had other visits - she always maintained an upbeat attitude, she taught through all her surgeries, chemo, radiation, and diagnoses - even though this was the first time I felt like I really saw the physical toll cancer had taken on her, I never expected she would pass away so soon. And it sounds, from friends who talked to her last week, that she really didn't expect it either.
I find a lot of the conventional language about cancer unsatisfactory. Really what I want to say is that a strong, beautiful, talented woman, someone I cared about, died last week. I miss her. I wish it could have been differently for her - I wish her path had been easier.