She looked like a waxen doll, curled up in the big, padded recliner that had been her nest for many days and weeks over the past seven years. Her hands were cold; her wavy, short-cropped hair (her seventh "new look" post-chemo) lay softly on her forehead. Her eyes were closed and she was clearly not present. There was peace on her face at last; her body was no longer a source of pain.
I sat for awhile in the bright sunlight with her husband, her son and her daughter, and talked and wept about her last days. After fighting the breast cancer for many long years, always ready to try another clinical trial, always determined to beat the beast, my friend Sue Morrow Flanagan died just after dawn this morning in her home on Whidbey Island.
We did not expect it to be now; we thought we had more time. But cancer had its own timetable and, after the effort to pick up a small dog broke her arm, the end came quickly and without more pain. Her daughter was with her when she took her last breath. Her son was also at home and her husband had been by her side constantly. I came as soon as I knew.
I remember our last visit. The oncologist had just delivered the news a day or so earlier that the most time she had was 6 months or less. She was her normal sparky self, bright-eyed as always, not really ready to go but willing to learn another interesting thing, whatever death might bring.
No more pain, Sue. No more emergency trips on the ferry to the ER. No more upsetting new symptoms. No more worries about family members and how they're dealing with it. Your concern was always for others, not yourself, though you fought the cancer with every fiber of your being. You are and have always been one hell of a woman.
I married you and Tom a few years ago, just before you had to go in for yet another chemo and wanted to be married with your own hair and in your wedding gown. I helped you say goodbye to your little dog when he died last year. I will memorialize your life in a few days. May your new journey be one of peace.
UPDATE: As it turns out, since I will be out of town for several days, the ceremonial goodbyes will be offered in my absence. I feel a little sad about that but also glad that I was able to spend part of today with the family and to say goodbye to Sue. And I'm glad that my absence will not mean that they have to wait till I return.