This week I lost a dear friend.
4 years ago we moved onto this street, into our first home.
And I met Cheryl.
Cheryl and Bob lived next door. For the first year it was friendly "Hello"'s and occasionally I would sit with The Prince (who was a baby at the time), and just enjoy the new found company.
The next year I was expecting and began to spend time weekly on the other side of the fence.
By summer three we were there daily.
And a friendship blossomed.
She became a very special friend. A confidant. An extra mother for all the times my kids needed extra mothering, and she brought joy to my day.
Cheryl saw the good in people. Not in the cliche way that we would like to think those that are gone lived. NO. She REALLY saw the good in people. She seemed blind to the harshness of life, yet had had some very hard times.
She raised two beautiful daughters. She was incredibly close with her mother and her brothers. She doted on her grandkids. And as it was said to me today: To know her a day was to know her a lifetime. She just drew people to her. Me included.
Cheryl was married in June 2008 to Bob who she had been with for over a decade.
She danced. She danced walking out of her house and down the pathway... she danced walking out onto her daughters back deck where they said their vows... she danced as the bbq was going and the beers were opened and she danced as she waved everyone off at the end of the night. It was beautiful.
The next week Cheryl was told she had cancer.
For the following year she had surgeries and treatments and chemo and last summer we all hoped that she was out of the woods.
We had an AMAZING summer.
I "wasted" dozens of afternoons when my parents were on Noe and Popops duty, hanging out with Cheryl instead of vacuuming, or cleaning, or painting. She would say "Just half an hour more..." which inevitably would turn into hours.
We drank pop and tea and wine and ate cheese and crackers and burgers and she provided an endless stream of popsicles to my kids who no longer no the difference between their house and ours.
I spent 5 hours one day in their kitchen with Bob learning how to bread onion rings and old fashioned deep fried chicken and we had ourselves an all out cook out for the neighbourhood. We ate till it hurt and still kept eating!!!
This September Cheryl was told the cancer had spread.
We kept our time outside weekly as the weather turned cold and would still hop the fence to say hello and catch up running in and out to our cars.
By January she was really sick.
And this week she went downhill fast.
I saw her on Thursday night and my heart broke.
Cheryl was fading into a wisp.
But it didn't become the scary experience I thought it would be.
Because on Friday I went to see her again and rather than popping in and out the door I was asked if I wanted to stay. So I did. And slowly the house filled with her family. We were told she probably wouldn't survive the weekend and when we knew she was stable we all anxiously went home that night praying there wouldn't be a phone call.
The next morning I went back. And again the house slowly filled with her family. She was no longer able to speak but we each took the time to sit beside her and tell her everything we felt. We cried. We laughed. We ate and we hugged.
By 5pm the time was approaching and her daughters held her hands and told her all the last things they needed to say as her husband watched and their husbands supported them. Her younger daughter said the Serenity Prayer and 15 minutes later, as Bob held her and whispered to her, and as the family sat around the room in silence, Cheryl went into the arms of Jesus.
It was peaceful.
It was beautiful.
And it hurt like hell.
Today was the last day for the ceremony of goodbyes. It was also the start of the emptiness that seems to have filled a portion of this close knit community that we so love.
But even through these last few days I healed a little bit.
I have been privileged to be included as family. To get to know her daughters who are each just like her and yet so different. I was there to laugh at the moments that we knew she'd crack up at. I was allowed to cry when we all felt the ache of her absence and I was honoured to pray during the moments when my own words were empty.
For the next while I will greatly dislike the front of my house. The fact that she'll never run up to me again when I'm unloading groceries... or yell "REEEE Bekah!!!" out her front door when she's brewed a fresh cup of coffee. I'll even miss picking out her wall colours with her and then helping her convince Bob they were the right choice. And my kids will miss her... Oh how they'll miss Auntie Cheryl...
But I learned the most valuable lesson from her. Always have time. Have time for relationships. Have time for people. Have time to sit for just half an hour more. She knew this before the cancer. This wasn't something Cheryl was taught.
This is what Cheryl always knew.
That's why to know her was to love her...
Man did I love my dear friend.
And I miss her bad.