Unfortunately, if you live long enough you eventually get to the age when your friends start dying. Our most recent loss was Iva, the wife of a close friend. We knew the couple for over thirty years. And although in all that time we only saw each other a couple of dozen times, we were soul mates. How the soul-mate relationship happens I do not know. But we did come from similar backgrounds, even though they were raised on Long Island and we were raised in Chicago. We had both been married 45 years. The husband, Jim, and I are both recovering alcoholics, which may have been our bond. But it was more than that.
Last September, Barbara and I were in San Diego at a reunion of our old neighbors from Chicago, and we had planned to drive to Escondido to see our friends. But Iva came down with a bellyache, and we canceled the get-together. Little did we know that what appeared to be stomach flu would turn out to be cancer. After many agonizing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the doctors finally told Iva that there was nothing left to do. Ten days later she died, with her husband and sons holding her hand. Life is beautiful but all too short.
When Iva was diagnosed with cancer, Jim started writing an e-mail letter to their friends, friends they had known in grammar and high school and others who had come into their lives over the years. The letters were about Iva, how she was responding to treatment, how her spirits were high and how, in spite of her condition, she continued to reach out to help those who needed it most. The letters were filled with love.
Then came the news that the doctors had given up all hope, the news that his bride had slipped into a coma and, finally, the tearful news of her death. I attended the funeral and the traditional get-together at Jim's home after the services. Two hundred people were there, offering their support. But the next day Jim was alone, without Iva for the first time in 50 years.
Life is short. And we have so little time to let those special people in our lives know how much we care.
Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.