Cathy and her beautiful smile.
My friend Cathy is dying. There is no cure for the merciless disease that has taken hold of her body. Cathy has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Simply put, ALS is a “disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.” Cathy’s form of ALS is genetic and she has watched an aunt, her mother and two brothers wither and die of the same disease. She knows what to expect and she views this knowledge as a great blessing.
Unlike many, Cathy has been given the opportunity to put her life in order before she passes. She has time to say her goodbyes. She has time to tell the people she loves that she loves them. She has time to ask forgiveness and to forgive when desired.
Cathy and I were fortunate to meet each other back in our wild and wooly twenty-somethings. We were fast women who drove even faster cars… Cathy, an old Rambler with the push button gears that she called “Bubbles” and I, a bright red Toyota pickup that had its rear fender dented by a bear on a suicide mission.
There were four of us who chose to tear up the town back then; Cathy, Susan, Julie (Bo) and myself. We were athletes, so our times together were a non-stop flurry of activity and occasional depravity.
There were whimsical trips to San Francisco with dancing and imbibing until all hours of the night, then crashing in some seedy six-dollar motel somewhere in the Tenderloin (none of us were rich back then; nor are we now).
There were fun times at the California State Fair with an episode of stalking Karla Bonoff (or was it Juice Newton?) as her group left the stage. And I think there was something about drooling… Yes, there was definitely drooling.
There were lots of parties and the drinking game called “Quarters.” I remember guitars, and music, and singing. There was always singing when Cathy was around.
A trip up to Guerneville on a windy road in either Bubbles or the red truck, and sleeping in an old Army tent that smelled like kerosene; pitched on some strangers lawn.
But what I remember the most from those days was Cathy’s incredible smile; her resonate laugh and her wicked sense of humor. There wasn’t a moment spent with her when we didn’t laugh. She was our comic relief. Our chase the blues away band-aid. Our very own private Lucille Ball.
We are now far removed from those crazy days. But they will never be forgotten. They will linger in my heart forever.
I was blessed to spend some time with Cathy this last Tuesday. We had not seen each other physically since those youthful times.
Far too long.
Yet when I walked into her home, not a single day had passed between us. There she sat with that same beautiful smile. That same embracing laugh.
That same upbeat sense of humor.
We talked a lot that day of the circle that is life; of the people we meet along the way and choose to weave into the tapestry of our souls. Of the one’s who are there for us in the beginning and who come back to us in the end.
We spoke of the beauties and the mysteries of life and of dying. We touched on energy and that great expanse of the unknown. We talked a lot about this vessel we call our “body” and of letting go.
I drove away from that visit with a warm heart, a lump in my throat and a deep feeling of gratitude. I was amazed at her inimitable spirit, her calm acceptance of her inevitable passage, her great strength.
Cathy has been and continues to be a wonderful gift. There will not be a dry eye the day she moves on to the next step in her journey. But her smile, her laugh, her wicked sense of humor, her love and her deep passion will continue to embrace those who have had the pleasure of her company. She has definitely lived a life well-loved by many.
Mazie the “Amazing Monkey-Face Pug/Poodle Terrier Princess” rests at Cathy’s side.
To find out more about ALS and how you can contribute to find a cure, visit the ALS Association website.