It’s been radio silence on the blog this past month, I feel like each week it’s something: post-vacation catch-up, catching a cold, giving that cold to Luke, but this most recent week it’s the worst of the worst, waiting for the phone call that says that a close friend of yours has passed away.
The best way that I can describe Nichole is that she was really good at being a friend. She was excellent at keeping in touch, remembering little details of a conversation and then actually checking back in to see how whatever you mentioned panned out, and coming to visit. As someone who is really good at thinking to do those things, but never actually getting around to doing so, I can say that I really appreciated the effort that she put into every single one of her friendships. And she had a lot of friendships. If you happen to be friends on Facebook with anyone who was friends with her, you’d be reading some of the most beautiful sentiments from people who just lost a really great friend, and one very eloquently written post from her newly widowed husband. She touched so many people that when word spread that she wasn’t going to be leaving the hospital, folks started making travel arrangements to come into town to say goodbye. Frozen meals are being prepared, funds collected, and prayers said, as a whole community of her friends learns how to grieve for one of our own.
Nichole fought with stage 4 breast cancer for a little over a year. When all was said and done it had spread to her liver, back and lungs. She passed away less than a week shy of her 29th birthday. If you didn’t see her slowly disappearing, you’d never know she wasn’t going to make it. In every conversation about cancer that we had, she had optimism. Optimism for the next drug they were putting her on, optimism that she’d be walking for our friend Katie’s wedding, optimism that she’d be heading back to work in October, optimism that she’d hold on long enough for a cure to be found. Even a couple of weeks before she passed away she was calling the oxygen tank temporary and we talked about future chemo-holidays (being off chemo for an extended time if your numbers are low enough). I remain completely blown away by the grace that she possessed.
Mike and I were fortunate to see her awake in the hospital one last time before she passed away last night. Even though she was struggling to stay awake, I got a trademark eye roll at a joke that I cracked upon kissing her on the cheek as we headed out of the room, I still smile thinking of that moment and the look she gave me. And then completely fall apart thinking of the last look that we gave each other, as I blew her a kiss from the doorway, somehow holding my composure in the moment. It was a beautiful end.
Luke woke us up in the middle of the night a couple of nights ago, and after he was soundly sleeping again, I was left there in the darkness, awake and alone with my thoughts. I cried for Nichole, not knowing how she was able to handle knowing that her days were numbered in the low single digits as she said goodbye to all of her friends and family as they flocked to the hospital at her request. I cried for her husband Adam and her dad. I selfishly cried for myself, not out of pity, but out of anger that I never managed to visit as often as I’d wanted to, or text every time that I thought about checking in. I wanted to apologize for not living up to my friend-potential.
There are two paramount things that I’m taking going forward, the first is to watch over my health like a hawk. Nichole was the one who inspired me to get my dark, raised mole removed and tested, even before she was diagnosed with cancer. She’d been on me about it since 2012, and I finally took care of it in spring of this year, I need to be more proactive about stuff like that. Second is to be a more involved friend to my friends. I need to take a page from her playbook and actually contact people instead of just thinking about contacting them. As a friend, she is the friend that I’ll forever aspire to be.