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Hard hits

Things happen sometimes that knock a person for a loop. 

And, two weeks ago one of those things happened. I received a phone call from a Colorado number; the man said who he was, the brother of my 43-year friend and former college roommate, and was calling to tell me she had passed away.

I was shocked. He said it was congestive heart disease that got her.

My friend had not had an easy life. She started out on top of her game, though. She and I attended Colorado State University and were roommates our sophomore year – we’d stayed friends and travel companions since that time.

Carol graduated with an occupational therapy degree and went on to work in that field.

Not long after graduation, marriage, and settling down, she became divorced and later learned she had multiple sclerosis.

She was a trooper; she did all they said for diet, exercise, etc., and fought the fight. The disease was not kind to her in terms of relationships and job retention. I quickly learned that a disease like that affects a person’s inner thoughts of themselves.

Employers terminate disabled persons for cause; but cause often comes because of the constant disappointments in life. A person can only have so much happen that is negative before it starts to affect their outlook on life – and attitude.

Several years after contracting MS, Carol got both breast and thyroid cancer. I remember, again, breaking down and crying for her.

I went to Colorado and sat with her at the cancer center while they hooked her up to the chemotherapy solution. We played Mancuso and enjoyed the day.

What centered me on how fortunate Carol was in what she had and how well the doctors had treated her was a conversation I overhead when I left the room for a break.

A nurse was telling a family of a young person that there was nothing more they could do for that child. I broke down; it was all too much. I found comfort knowing that Carol was going to make it, but anguish over the family losing a young one to a terrible disease.

Carol and I remained close over the years. We could go for months and months without talking; and then when we did talk, picked up right where we left off.

I hadn’t spoken to her for a while; I’d built my new house and had a bunch of other things going on. She called me on a Tuesday, my big day at the paper, she and I spoke for a moment and told her I’d call her back.

Knowing it would be a long conversation, I called her on Saturday. I left a message on her recorder, which wasn’t out of the ordinary, and waited for a call back. Two weeks later, her brother called me and told me he had found her in bed. Apparently she died the day I called her.

I’m still grieving. I cried over the next few days and questioned myself on why didn’t I call her back sooner, why the delay in calling her for the months, and on and on. 

There is no way to go back and do things again. 

A long time ago I came to the conclusion that if a person has as many good friends as fingers on a hand, they are very fortunate. I’m not talking about casual friends, I’m talking good friends that know you inside and out – friends that have been there and done that with you.

Carol went to the grave with some doozie stories of me in my college years. But I could trust that what happened in Colorado stayed in Colorado.

I could always count on an honest answer to any question I posed to her; and she could from me. 

Now, I have memories and an upcoming funeral to attend.

My heart aches; but, I will try to learn from my friend and be a better friend to those that I consider my good friends.




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