In mid 2004 I got untethered, separated from my marriage and living in an apartment, spending the standard divorced dad times with my kids while the lawyers accrued tens of thousands of dollars in fees that never advanced the case towards any sort of tangible end point. It was a new low up to that point.
During that time I added a dear friend, one I’d credit with dragging me into the light of living again. Living according to new circumstances to be sure. By the simple coincidence of proximity and an after noon carrying a tennis racquet from my car to my apartment the blessing of a life long new friendship came to be.
My friend works in management in the hospitality industry. He lives as a global citizen, transferring every couple of years to new properties all around the globe. This precluded our being able to see one another in person for more than ten years.
In April we spoke. He was in Houston, not living there but for another reason. That was full circle nonetheless as that’s where we had become friends.
On one assignment had lived and worked in a Central American country in the ten years that had passed. He married there and had a child. He was subsequently stationed variously around the Caribbean culminating in his present assignment.
He told me he was in Houston because his wife had leukemia.Treatment had failed on the island. Treatment in Florida had also failed. and they’d been taken in by M.D. Anderson in Houston for a last ditch effort where they would attempt to crush the disease and transplant fresh bone marrow. Having never met his wife or child, and passing nearly 11 years since he and I had seen one another I made my way to Houston to be with him during a tense time for her back in May.
I met the the precious little five year old girl. And my friend’s mother. They are Brazilian and she was there to support him. I met his mother-in-law who was obviously there to be beside her daughter as she struggled through her treatment. And I met his wife. Fortunately I can manage very well in Spanish and I suspect I had some providential boost in ability as well, so I was able to really get to know her over the few days I was there. If I could post the pictures of the three of us, he, his wife and I, faces pressed together for triple selfies all of us in masks and gowns and the wife’s eyes bright and clear with a smile the mask couldn’t cover…if you could see those you would see what joy looks like when tragedy tries to plaster over it and then tragedy is made to crumble and fall away.
Its not about me, but I left there filled with perspective that was there as I watched my friend Beav pass away and as the other, smaller things happened these past weeks.
Last Monday my friend, who is 40, had to preside over the disconnect and subsequent death of his 36 year old wife. I could not make it in time to stand with him for that. So, he was alone.
His daughter was not there when it happened and from what I understand its best that way. But he had to return home and tell his girl that mommy died. I won’t belabor that. But something else happened. On the same day, in the same ICU, a three year old girl who was also from a South American country died just hours after my friend’s wife. he and his extended family had become friends with the little girl’s family as their paths crossed in the hospital over and again these past months. When the little girl died the parents called my friend to tell him that his wife had given them great comfort by saying she’d look after the little girl.
When he returned home and told his daughter that mommy had died, her reaction was delayed, and profound. Two days later his daughter come to him saying her mommy had told her things would all be ok and to be a good girl.
I’ve no interest in exploring those last bits (The other little girl’s death, the notion that my friend’s wife could care for the dead little girl, and finally the daughter’s alleged communication with her mom) in any depth whatsoever. I am not asserting anything, I am ambivalent about those lines of inquiry. But I found the story compelling and uplifting.