I've never understood the significance that 'celebrating' the date that people passed away had and i do admit that it always made me feel quite depressed. I believe that the real importance lies in acknowledging people when they are alive, when they can appreciate whatever it is that someone has to say to them and maybe it would give them something in return that they could on their part, use positively in life. Having lost a friend three years ago today and looking around myself and those around me, i have come to the conclusion that sometimes people need a date to sit down and remember someone..
Liza was not a very good friend of mine. Her husband was good friends with mine and we in turn also got to know each other. She was a very career orientated woman who worked in the very demanding world of advertising. She was very head strong about things and you couldn't really describe her as an extremely sensitive kind of person. She was quite firm in her opinions and convictions and many times was disliked because of this. There were however, other sides of her personality too but just as is the case with most of us, few of us take the needed time and effort to search and discover them, especially if it takes quite a bit of extra effort as was the case with her.
When Liza though became a mother, we immediately shared a bond that all mothers share and our conversations became more frequent and we also became closer as friends,though we never passed that invisible line that exists that changes friendships to something more. It wasn't in her personal style to have such close bonds with many women anyways and i did understand this. The truth was however,that we were very much different in personalities and i always disagreed politely to what she said because my ideas and attitudes towards life and people were much different than hers.I think that she appreciated this when i do think back on it now. Most of our common friends were very quick and firm in disagreeing and arguing with her and great quarrels used to take place which many times led to very bad endings. She was not liked by many but then again, she really didn't care. It was just the kind of person that she was.
Liza was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was nursing her few month old baby son. This was my first contact with any kind of cancer and to say that i lost the wind in me is not an understatement. Why is it when we are young that we think bad things can only happen to older people? That anything and everything can happen to everybody else apart from us? This obviously is not the case and i think i grew up overnight that day.
Liza's battle with cancer lasted five years. In those five years my family and hers went on holidays in the summers together, as well as different excursions during the different seasons that passed. I was not by her side during the difficult times that she passed through her numerous chemotherapy sessions...she didn't want anybody to be anyways. I wasn't by her side when she spent days in incredible pain and stayed locked up in her home. We always shared the 'good days' that she was lucky to have together..this was just as important i think. I look back on these days with fondness and with bitterness though. Liza was not embarrassed to show that she had cancer. She would walk around without a hat and people felt uncomfortable about seeing her without any hair,about knowing that she indeed had cancer. One summer, her husband and their then four year old son all shaved their heads as a symbol of support for her and that picture always gave me such a smile on my face. Even now that i think back on it,i still smile...
People though were impolite to say the least with her. Many times she was the topic and the sight of very indiscreet stares and comments. Being on the beach and wearing her swimsuit, she knew that her mastectomy could be seen but she didn't seem to mind. She got power out if it i think and was very quick to answer back to anyone who did stare a bit too long at her. I don't know if i could ever have had the strength that she had to confront not only her illness but also everyone else. She had only asked me one thing in all those five years that we stood by her in her fight and that was not to look at her with pity in my eyes because that was the one thing that was really killing her. I think that this was one of the most difficult things i ever had to do , so little when compared to what she had to go through on a daily basis.
I do believe that we all have the inner strength that we many times do need in certain situations. I looked in myself and found the way to get the pity out of my eyes and supported my friend as well as i could. I admit though that when the door closed and she wasn't anymore in sight,i used to break down and cry for her..so much for being strong but it was the best i could do.
I have never met a stronger person than Liza and i doubt if i ever will. Though she never admitted it herself, she knew deep down that she would get beaten by cancer since it was spreading very quickly throughout her body. Slowly she began growing less attached to her son and giving her husband the major role in his everyday life. She was always there but also wasn't at the same time. At first i was quick to criticise this and ask myself 'what is she doing for gods name?' but as time passed and she became worse,i realized that she had done this for the sake of her son..so his loss would not be as great as it would have if she had hoovered over him twenty-four hours of the day. Is there any other show of selflessness? I fail once again to find anything else.
It saddens me that now, three years after her death, that there isn't a single picture of her in her son's room, or one in the house where he lives in. A picture does not of course bring back a person but it is an indication of something. When i look at this eight year old now, i see in him his mother. Besides his obvious resemblance to her, his voice sounds just like his mother's and deep in his brown eyes, there is the same expression as his mother always had..i find myself many times staring at him and my mind drifting...
Unfortunately so, the same disappointment i also feel for myself . I don't think about Liza as much as i should and i haven't visited her grave to leave a bunch of her favourite flowers in a long time. There are no excuses for that. But if there is such a thing as life after death,in whatever form that may be, she knows that i did love her but more importantly i admired her for her fight and stand those five difficult years for her. She taught me what it meant to really love someone enough to let them go...this is what she did with her son and this is her greatest accomplishment as a person. How many of us are given the opportunity to show ourselves in our life and to take advantage of it? If we are honest with ourselves, few of us have.
Thank you Liza for letting me grow next to you ...for letting me see what it is to have self respect...for what it truly means to be a mother...