Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bidding Farewell

It must be our fears, and insecurities, that make it so difficult to say "good-bye" to those we love.  Do any of us have so many friends that we can 'afford' to lose one and not be touched by it?  Is it selfish to "hope for one more chance to visit, one more chance to talk about old times, one more chance to tell her we love her"?
These are thoughts I've been pondering over the last several days, weeks, as we are cherishing our last days with our dear friend Valerie.  Valerie (who many of you know) was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma last summer.  She did well with the first months of treatment, was an amazing testament to the wonders of modern science!  Then the cancer came back.  That's all that really needs to be said, isn't it?  This time, the cancer is winning and we are watching her die as actively as she lived.  

Without getting into the long history of her life, I can say that Valerie is one of the most fascinating and entertaining people I've ever met.  She's a wonderful story teller, and her life stories enthrall!  She and Dean go back to "the early days".  He was "Best Man" for Val and her husband, Bob, when they married in the early '80's.  Dean and Bob were best friends, "twopeasinapod" astronomer buddies on Kitt Peak.  Enter Valerie, and there was Bob getting swept off of his feet.  Bob had a long history of heart ailments.  Valerie was his champion until the end, which came too soon in 2001.  Valerie is the steadfast rock that you know you can cling to in times of need.  She gave her all to help Dean through the death of his first wife, Vicki, from cancer in 2003; and through his subsequent heart surgeries.  She comforted and supported me when I was visiting Dean (before we were married) in 2008 and my brother passed away.  She has been there through times of joy also.  Valerie is an "organizer".  Every party benefits from her added input.  She and our friend Jane threw a wonderful "Tucson pre-wedding star party" for Dean and me, a month or so before we got married.  It was a 'modest' affair of 100 people or so - complete with authentic Mexican food catered in, and telescopes set up and ready for a night of viewing into the heavens.  When Dean and I married a couple of months later, it was Valerie, Jane, Erica, Jennifer, and Chuck who arrived from Arizona a couple of days ahead to 'attend to the details' - our family from Arizona.  Every Grand Canyon Star Party has had Valerie working 'crowd control' - directing the flow of visitors to the lesser viewed telescopes, encouraging and praising speakers, and keeping the astronomers excited about our purpose.  There are no strangers to Valerie, she can talk to anyone and loves everyone!
How do you bid farewell to "the rock"?  How selfish is it to want one more chance?  Even once she has broken the Earthly chains that hold her here, we know that she will still be with us.  Her late husband, Bob, used to say that when he died he would go to exist in the Orion Nebulae (one of most beautiful of the night sky objects).  Valerie is looking forward to joining him there, soon.  The night sky will be friendlier for us, to be sure, but there will still be a gaping vacancy left here on Earth.


Shannon said...

I couldn't have said it any better, Melinda. It just kills me she's going to be gone.

Twila said...

Very beautifully put, Melinda. What a huge hole she leaves in her passing. Valerie is unique!