This past weekend I went to my friend Deb’s, to celebrate her birthday. Her husband Norm planned it and some of us made food for the party. It was wonderful to reconnect with some friends who live out of town but have been sending me notes of encouragement. It was wonderful to visit with my friends that I do see. As usual, Deb and Norm were lovely hosts. The birthday cake was fun – a Spartan (Deb got her undergrad degree from MSU), a small M for Michigan (where Deb, Judy and I met at law school and were inseparable), an Irish shamrock and Scottish flag (representing Deb’s heritage). Her nephew, Kory, was very excited about the cake. However, that is not the reason for this post. The party was ten years after the last birthday party Norm arranged for Deb at their house. It hit me the day before. What occurred ten years ago also greatly affected me.
I have a photo in my library of that party ten years ago. In it, I am sitting on Deb’s couch next to our dear friend Sue Shapiro, both of us smiling widely into the camera and leaning in to each other. Sue was about 20 years older than us, was an art history major, who after getting divorced, went to paralegal school to be able to get a job, and whom Deb and I first met when we were first year associates. She was one of the most upbeat, supportive, sweet people, we knew, besides being smart. She was like a second grandmother to my kids, who also loved her, and even babysat them before she had her own grandchildren. Sue never failed to tell me I was beautiful, I was smart, I was a superb lawyer and wonderful person. She never had a negative thing to say about anyone, and worked hard for us on any cases we had together. I loved her dearly. At that party, Sue was in a wig, in the middle of chemo treatment for stage three ovarian cancer, a diagnosis that came out of the blue. Sue comes from a family that lives long, healthy lives. She has a cousin in her 90’s who still travels and was one of Sue’s travel companions. Like me, Sue loved to travel. Her father was working into his 90’s. Sue’s cancer was a shock to everyone who knew her. Her cancer later went into a very short remission, returned with a vengeance, and less than two years after that party ten years ago, she died. I miss her to this day.
What struck me was that never in my wildest dreams ten years ago did I think that ten years later it would be me on Deb’s couch wearing a wig and undergoing chemo. To tell the truth, when I looked at that photo from ten years ago, it freaked me out a bit. Then, I said to Alan, I will have a different result than Sue. I will be a long term survivor and be at Deb’s next birthday party ten years from now and then the one after that one. I told Deb and Judy about this, and how the photo had affected me, but that I see a future with me in it, living life to the fullest. The good thoughts, healing prayers, love and support I receive bolster me and I visualize myself many years from now, remembering the tough road, but that I am alive and with my family. As our friends at Deb’s were talking about their aches and pains and how it can be difficult dealing with growing old, my thought was I don’t care about aches and pain, I want to grow old with my family around me. Life and love are all that matter. Aches and pains remind us that we are here, still enjoying our lives. We should always remember what is important and not worry about the small stuff. We should always enjoy and appreciate life, and good health to the fullest. Life is a gift. I will never forget that. To life and love!!