Thursday, November 03, 2005
Playing with the angels
I had something extraordinary happen to me at work today. I spent the day doing my job, but my mind was going over superficial aggravations about how the office was being run and who's getting away with what, etc., when I opened up an e-mail from someone who was sending me a sincere apology for her part in a working relationship/friendship rift that had been simmering since June. It was so totally unexpected that I just stopped typing and sat there for a few minutes.
One phrase in the e-mail jumped out at me. "Life is too short." I immediately thought about my friend, Bernie. Today would have been her 52nd birthday. She died at the age of 49 of hepatitis C that she received from a transfusion 20 years earlier during a C-section. She often joked about the fact that she was a longtime non-drinking Baptist and was ironically dying of liver disease.
Her real name was Kathleen Capon White, wife of Francis White, a nurse anesthetist in Memphis. I called her Bernie in high school, because in French class we had to adopt French names and she chose Bernadette. We met in 4th grade, grew up in school together, became Candy Stripers together. I was her matron of honor and she had served at our wedding a few years earlier. Her postpolio syndrome made it impossible for her play the piano, so she took up the dulcimer instead. She sang and played beautifully!
The last time I saw Bernie was at Rachel's wedding. Bernie was in the last stages of her hepatitis, but she insisted on flying up here for the wedding anyway. I didn't know at the time that I would never see her again on this earth. If she had lived, I know she would have been a faithful reader of my blog and I know also she would have had a creative blog of her own. She had much to share the world.
This is the way the world turns upside down. Before Bernie received her hepatitis diagnosis, I could have made an extensive list of people in our lives that I was sure would die before Bernie. Life does not follow logic, however. Now I feel her today over my shoulder, repeating, "Life is too short...for petty annoyances and grievances and complaints. Appreciate what you have."
I suppose I have a form of survivor's guilt. Bernie died before 50; I am 51 now. Bernie never saw her 3 children get married; I have seen both mine on their wedding days. Bernie never lived to enjoy a grandchild; I have my second one coming into the world on Monday. In a way, though, I feel as if she is living through me, and not only through me, but through Francis and her children and her music and her gorgeous cross-stitch pictures, and she is living through all those who have benefited from her life and love.
Happy birthday, Bernie! I miss you so much!