I’m struggling with words this morning, forgive me, please. I’ve had a bit of a “creative spark” drought as of late, and I’ve not blogged in a little while. But I got a phone call a couple weeks ago, that has changed my life forever, and it’s prompted my catharsis….
My dearest Cindy,
(I was very tempted to start this with ‘hey girlfriend’ but I resisted – kind of.)
Do you know how hard it is to explain to a two year old why you’re crying?
When I got here, I quickly realised though, that I hadn’t quite thought through the entire process of this expat malarkey, it wasn’t easy. Culture shock (trust me, it happens even for people moving between states or provinces within the same country), not driving, not having kids or dogs to meet people at schools and dog parks, missing my family, my friends, birthdays, especially, being difficult.
Not long after I arrived, I joined the Spouses organisation – you know, the one that I tell you all about ALL. THE. TIME. and I met, who I can only describe as this ginormous ball of positive energy, crammed inside a teenie tiny petite little frame.
Her name was Cindy, she was a bit older than me (think around my mums age), so not someone that you’d typically think of as falling under my ‘friend’ umbrella, but she quickly became a very dear friend to me. I called her ‘mama Cindy’, her husband ‘daddy Tim’ and she took me under her wing. She was sort of new to the Houston area (she’d been here before for a time) she was one of the first people I met in Houston and she was, without a doubt, one of the best. Neither of us wanted to be here, she’d spent thirteen years in Denver, CO and that was home. She loved having four real seasons, being close to her son Alex (I’ve heard so much about him that some days I wonder if he’s actually related to me somehow) and she hated Houston. In spite of that? She jumped in with both feet and wasn’t afraid of the splash.
Over the past seven years, our friendship has grown and I am nothing short of honoured to be able to say, that she’s been a large part of my inner circle, one of the original, old guard, ‘renegades’, who was truly up for anything. Many’s a day have we cleared out cafes and restaurants by giggling obnoxiously loudly, we’ve eaten together (and for a little un she could surely put it away), we’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together, we’ve gossiped together and we’ve explored together.
She helped me picked my wedding dress, she was at my wedding, she helped both Col and I out after not one, but two surgeries, she co-hosted my baby shower, she never missed a sing-star party (or any kind of party) that I threw, she was always game for a good feed (and boy, could she put it away for someone so little) and she loved on Lewis and helped me out once he was born. She was a true friend.
When she got sick, almost ten months ago now, she was so full of hope, fire and determination that she couldn’t possibly succumb to this disease. When she rang the exit bell at MD Anderson after her first round of radiation, she was so proud of herself, happy and excited about what was yet to come. When the cancer came back? She took it in her stride, gloved up and said ‘Let’s do this’. There has never been a single moment in the last nine months, where I didn’t think she would and could fight this – in spite of her prognosis, in spite of being stage 4, I figured that miracles happen, right? And if anyone was deserving of a miracle? It would be our Cindy, and she’d beat this thing.
You can imagine, then, how ill prepared I was for Tim’s phone call telling me that she was gone.
Some days? I’m not wholly convinced that there’s a God, others? I’m not really sure he knows what he’s doing. But if anyone needed convincing that God really does exist and indeed know what he’s doing, just look at Cindy’s story. Tim mentioned it in his eulogy and brought us all to tears, he was right, things in Cindy’s life were definitely falling in to place, rather than falling to pieces, even though, in some ways it may have seemed like things were falling to pieces.
Her son Alex marrying Brittney when he did, her granddaughter Avery being born when she was – all big milestones that, had they happened at later stages of her life, she may not have been around to witness. This extends to us too even, my friend Shelley wasn’t supposed to be transferred back to Houston when she was, instead, she got to see Cindy before she died, another friend and I are at the end of our seven year visas, had she died even six months down the line? We may not have been here to say goodbye.
The day before her funeral, I flew in to New Orleans with my sista-friend and Godmother to my son, Sheri. We decided to go the day before, stay in a hotel in the ‘Quarter and pay homage to our girl Cindy in an amazing city. We started with dinner and a hurricane at Pat O’Briens, a hand grenade at Tropical Isle, dancing and singing at a couple bars on bourbon street and finished up with a trashy hot dog in the street between pictures with minions and doing some guys advertising job for him.
The morning of her funeral, we met up with a couple of our friends who flew in early, we had breakfast, shed some tears as we walked through the French quarter, shopping a little for momentos and listening to a jazz band play ‘Amazing Grace’ (a song that the priest actually sang at the end of her funeral).
It was hard, but none of us fought our tears and I think a tradition was institutionalised. In the future, when we lose one of our group (and I’m hoping it’ll be a long, long, time before that happens again), that’s where I’ll go, to honour, to drink and to say goodbye.
Miss Cindy’s visitation and funeral service was one of the hardest I’ve ever been to. While it was beautiful and fitting, there were pictures of our fun-loving Cindy and beautiful smelling flowers at every turn, it was just hard. I knew that with Tim doing the Eulogy, I didn’t stand a chance. I was doomed to be a sobbing, ugly crying mess, before long, and I was right. I was – and rightly so.
The world is missing a very special person right now and I think many lives have been changed forever with her passing. That said? Many lives have also been changed forever with her having been part of their lives – and I’m honoured to say, that I’m one of those people. For a little’un, she’s left ginormous footprints on my heart and I’ll hold her memory dear forever – maybe some day we’ll all get together and tell little Miss Avery how ace (translation: cray cray) and full of love her grandma Cindy was.