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And then she said, "She died, did you know?"

Yesterday morning we were at the church and I was dropping off the children for their program. We were all giddy about the morning---the kids to see their friends and play, me to have two hours free to run errands. I hadn't even bothered with hair or makeup (but I rarely do so...).

After I dropped the kids, I paused in my car (killing the environment, engine and air running because I am such a heat wimp and will break my moral code for life-saving convenience) to address some envelopes, Father's Day cards. I needed to run to the post office and get some $.02 stamps, and this time I was going to restock with forever stamps to avoid this need in the future.

Tap tap tap on my window. It's my great good friend, the best.

I rolled down the window, surprised by the hot humid blast, even though it's well into June here, but because it wasn't even 10 a.m. yet.

"Hi," she said, her older daughter peering in, running a toy lizard over the edge of my car.

"Hi," I said back, also greeting her daughter, "Hey, you'll have to show that lizard to Patience. You know how she loves jelly lizards."

Her daughter said, "Well, it's my sister's and I'm just lizard-sitting, but I think she'll let Patience see it. She's a good sharer. Well, usually." She rolled her eyes.

I laughed.

We chatted and caught up a bit, planned to get together to swim, catch up. She had a busy week last week due to Girl Scout camp and other obligations, and has a busy week this week making up work.

As we stood there, people began arriving for a funeral. They walked past, dressed nicely, but somberly. Women in skirts, dresses and suits, with heels, even some with pantyhose. Men in suits. All sweating by the time they reached the church doors.

Earlier, when we arrived, I'd noticed the hearse and two limos by the entrance. I'd even had the presence of mind to tell the children, hey, when we go into the church let's be quiet. People are here for a funeral, and we need to respect that.

As we walked in, a few older ladies and gentlemen were already inside, standing silently together near the entrance to the sanctuary. My kids had held it together remarkably well but then saw a friend and excitedly squealed and hopped. They skipped together to greet their buddies.

One older lady smiled to watch these adorable children, but then a tear rolled down her face. I understood the bittersweet moment. As much as grief can make a heart want the sun to not rise, the clocks to stop...they don't, and truth be told, deep down, you are a little relieved and glad about that. It can help---in some way, at some point---to see that joy still abounds, and life skips on.

Back at the car, my friend and I changed the playdate meeting time a couple of times, and distractedly waved at a few of the funeral attendees, whom we knew. Another friend joined us, back fresh from a holiday sans kids. We all wanted to catch up but also felt the pressure of limited time to get our massive to-do lists done. We waved to a few more people we knew.

Then were silent.

"Ummm...whose funeral is this?" I asked.

My good friend replied, "I don't know, but I'm getting a little nervous. We know a lot of these people."

"I know," I said, "We do."

We were silent again for a moment. Then my good friend said, "Did you get my note last week? I'm sorry I sent it in an email, but I was so pressed for time. I wanted you to know, though, in case you wanted go to the funeral."

"What?" I asked, demanded almost, "What? I didn't get your email. What?"

"Cecilia," she told me, "She died, did you know?"

Cecilia was a person I met very early on when I moved here. She was a middle-aged lady with an interesting background, a young daughter she was very proud of, and a heavy fear of cats. Most importantly, though, she loved children. She cared for my kids, and my friends' kids too. She watched mine every week while I went to my class. Patience probably doesn't remember a time she didn't know Cecilia and Persistence has known her for her entire life. I thought of times that Cecilia and I sat in the nursery, me on the floor, her in the rocking chair, and chatted freely.

I choked up.

"No," I managed, "I missed that. I didn't know. When? How? Why? When is the funeral?"

"She died last Monday," my friend said, "And the funeral was Thursday."

I felt my heart sink. I'd missed it. Completely. I had no chance to see her husband and daughter, tell them thanks for sharing her. Hear all the words about her. Grieve and mourn with others who felt the same way. Say goodbye.

"How," I asked.

"Well remember she hadn't been feeling very good? She finally went to the doctor. It was cancer, very advanced, nothing they could do. She was diagnosed and gone, just like that."

It was only a month ago, I thought, one month. She was there like normal and then suddenly vanished in mid-Spring. Jenni tried to call her, I remembered now. We had all talked about it, where was Cecilia, we're worried. But Jenni was the most worried, it's not like her, Jenni said, I'm going to call her, try to find out what's happened.

We're all so distracted, so busy. Jenni got caught up with baseball stuff, and I had my book printing issues, plus the kids and everything else, and everyone has so much. I remembered to ask Jenni once, did you find Cecilia, and she said something like, not really, just enough to know she's not feeling good. And we all just got caught back up in our lives.

Meanwhile, Cecilia had just received a terrible diagnosis, and went downhill fast. Her husband and her daughter could not have had time to process that they were losing her before she was gone. She died. Just like that. While we were all looking the other way.

Today, like every other day, I have too much on my mind and plate...morning swim date, lunch, naps, bank, doctor's appointment, officer's announcement dinner for my club, and so forth.

But my mind will be working on the letter I am going to write to Cecilia's daughter. The daughter who was there while we were not, and who ought to know that we care too, in our own too often too distracted way.

End Note: The funeral was for a much older lady whom we all vaguely knew, mainly by name.

P.S. The Hump Day Hmm Host Post---linking all those who decided to discuss how to forgive fate, and/or how to deal with losing twenty years---goes up tomorrow so I hope you all are ready and send me the links! For more details, the original call post is here.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert


kaliroz said…
Oh, Julie.

I'm so very, very sorry.

I don't know what else to say.
Christine said…
I am so sorry to hear of this sad loss. And i am so sorry that you missed her funeral. i know Celia's daughter will love the letter.

Why, suddenly, does this week feel like it is filled with grief for so many of us?
Lawyer Mama said…
I'm so sorry. What a surprise blow it must have been. I hope her family is holding up. Please let us know, won't you?
S said…
What a poignant telling of the time leading up to your sad discovery.

I'm sorry.
Ally said…
This is so beautifully written. I am so sorry for your loss, and for the family's. I love your idea of writing a letter to her daughter. Likely that will be an even better tribute than had you attended the funeral and not really been able to express what you were feeling anyway.
Kyla said…
Wow. It doesn't seem fair for it to happen that way. Someone gone from the world in the time it takes you to spin around and look for them.

Sorry, Julie.
Magpie said…
Oh Julie - what a sad thing.
Anonymous said…
I'm sorry. How heartbreaking to find out too late.
Gwen said…
Julie, I am so sorry. Sorry about Cecilia, and sorry your found out too late. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
Daisy said…
Lump in throat. My symathies to you. I hope you have a chance to meet the family adn express your condolences and thanks to them. They will appreciate it, no matter when you do.
K said…
I'm sorry.

It just sucks that life is so much. I'm a total slacker and can't seem to keep up. Roy and I just talked about missing the funeral of someone he loved 14 years ago because of the distraction of the every day. Your post was a reminder to get him to write his own letter.
Julie Pippert said…
Thank you, everyone, for the kind words.

I'm having trouble writing this letter, keep procrastinating getting the daughter's address. Friday is my deadline.

I will get it together. I want the family to know.

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