My friend Delise would have been 54 today. But complications of something called Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP) took her away when she was just 52. Her mother was there — the first to hold her when she arrived; the last to hold her when she departed.
I watched my friend’s feisty fight with CIDP on Facebook. We kept in touch there – and in our hearts. This friend of mine from high school never left me, even though we hadn’t put eyes on each other in probably 15 years. Whenever I thought of her – think of her – I could hear her snort of a laugh; see her quick smile; feel her fiery personality.
From her Wisconsin home, hundreds of miles away from me, she cheered me on. I stupidly sent her recommendations for books I thought might help her make this disease go away. I never realized the seriousness of it until I found out she was dying.
Delise and I talk more now that she’s dead than when she was alive – tethered, still, by our heart connection. She’s on Team Annie, the folks on the other side whom I ask for help and guidance whenever I need help and guidance. I feel a chill shoot through me when I call out to her. I know she’s there just as surely as when we talked over the phone.
I like to think we decide when we want to leave the planet just as I like to think we decide when and where and with whom we’ll arrive.
It helps me to think that Delise chose to leave when she left. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s true or not.
The day I learned that Delise was dying, I walked my dogs through the cemetery near my country home, just as I do every day. During that walk I saw a bright-yellow butterfly on the ground, perfect in every way except that it was dead.
When I shared that with her mother, she told me Delise loved butterflies – and the color yellow.
On today’s walk, Delise’s birthday, it’s the faded yellow of a sunflower that catches my eye – its head bowed, shoulders slumped, its once vibrant yellow petals limp and lifeless.
Like my friend, it had lived its life, brightening the world while it was here. And, like my friend, it continues to inspire even in its death.
I walked back home, singing along to The Byrds’ song that was playing in my head – music, another connection I shared with Delise:
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven …
I learned the other day that Delise’s oldest son and his wife are expecting a baby girl.
Her middle name will be “Delise.”