The phone rang. Twice before it had not been that call. This time, however, Mark somberly told me that she'd stopped breathing. Mum was gone.
She and I only had a few months to get to know one another. On the very day Mark and I reconnected, he said he wanted me to know her. I was warmly welcomed to Thanksgiving dinner, complete with hugs and come agains. On Christmas morning, a very thoughtful Santa made sure there were gifties for me along with the rest of the clan. We enjoyed a few dinners together here and there, and as Di's health started to take a turn, seeing her on the weekends Mark and I shared became a ritual. Once in nursing care, the visits were almost daily (and often included chocolate). Some days our chats were mindless -- sure is a nice day outside...lunch wasn't so tasty, huh? Others, I'd ramble about my classes, the kids, paying the bills and mowing the lawn. She'd kindly listen. And she'd share too.
Her love for microbiology was contagious. I'd enjoyed the classes before, but with this personal connection it became even more fascinating. I told her about my experimental discoveries and mishaps, and she shared some of her own.
I learned about her family -- a passionate admiration for her father, absolute love for her siblings and occasional anecdotes about her four adoring children.
But sadly, I did not get to know her. And it is clear by the outpouring of love toward her in her final months that she was nothing shy of an amazing woman. She left an impression on every life she touched. Including mine.
Her impact on Mark...immeasurable.
It's heartbreaking to witness someone lose the shoulder that was always there. Not knowing the right thing to do, I have loved and I have listened. I have cried and I have wiped his tears. I have held him so closely I thought we could be one. And I've had the strong compulsion to cup his heart in my hands and hold it tightly, protecting it from more hurt. I need to numb the deep gash that causes him to ache to the core. I want to make him whole again.
The single most influential person in my best friend's life is gone. As time passes, the sadness will ease -- but it will never disappear. His life was shaped by the love and efforts of a remarkable woman. How wonderful that she has and always will shine through him.