She had breast cancer. It was a rare, awful, aggressive kind that went into remission for long enough for her to talk about coming back to work, then exploded in her liver and bones and lungs and pancreas.
She was a good, good person. I never heard her say a word against anyone, or saw her be depressed or negative. The worst thing she ever said to me was this: just after her diagnosis, but before her first surgery, I asked her how she was doing. "I'm makin' it" was her answer.
"Makin' it" was as bad as it got for her.
She was unfailingly kind. She was unfailingly helpful. She never seemed to get tired. She never made excuses, or flew off the handle, or gossiped. Seriously: in a hospital as tiny as ours, nobody that I talked to could remember a time when she was less than *good*.
I worry about her sister. Let other people worry about her kids and her husband; her sister is also a friend of mine, and oh Lord how I worry. They were tight in the way that it takes most of us years to achieve, past the hurdles of adolescence and into adulthood. Five years apart, they were inseparable since forever. Now her sister has to live the rest of her life without the one person to whom she could've talked about all of this.
She'd worked in health care long enough to know what she did not want. No tubes, she said; no intubation, or compression, or drugs. Just give me enough morphine that I don't hurt too much, but let me be awake enough to see my babies. Every baby was her baby; the baby boom in the CCU made her so happy.
We'd all planned to go see her last night. She died yesterday at ten-thirty in the morning. She went smoothly and peacefully, bradying down into the 30's, with a blood pressure that was barely palpable, before things just stopped. Never any true agonal breathing, never any fighting; she just went to sleep. It was appropriate and right that the night shift nurses who'd worked with her were the last to visit, just before she went to sleep.
It was as good a death as you can have. It was as good a life as you could wish for.
It is as large a hole as you can imagine for the rest of us.
I would say "rest in peace", but it would be redundant. She believed, strongly, in a God more good than I can conceive of. She believed she would go to a Heaven I can't wrap my head around. She believed in an eternal, painless life after death, when everyone would be reunited and happy forever.
Who am I to say she was wrong? The strength of her faith makes me believe that she was right.