My friend Tina called me several years ago to tell me our friend Laura had cancer. Laura was a single mother with two tiny little boys living near Boston, MA. She had just been through the worst kind of divorce, and was facing not only making her way alone, but raising two babies.
I called her immediately and we both sobbed on the telephone. My husband had had Hodgkin’s 26 years ago, and she seemed encouraged by his story.
When she came home for a visit a few months later, I brought her and her baby boys to my house. Laura was tiny, barely five feet tall, and even though my sons were young themselves, they towered over her. For some reason, she decided to teach them to dance. I don’t remember why exactly, only that at the time, it seemed the most natural thing. We were all happy and laughing as she grasped both of Robby’s hands in hers as she twirled and spun around the room. And he was both delighted and enchanted by her.
I saw her a few more times when she came home to visit. Her last visit was for our 30th high school reunion last spring, but she ended up being too sick to go to the party. Barely able to sit up, she made the long flight from Massachusets, sheparding her two little boys. Her cancer had spread. It was all over her little body. But when I stopped in for a visit, she sat up and hugged me and asked all about me and my sons and my husband and my house and my job and my parents and my brother and my sister. She couldn’t have been more interested in my life, even though she had to know she was losing hers. She kept touching the new cancerous lesions that had just appeared on her head. She thanked me profusely for the watermelon I’d brought, and was very concerned about how hard it was on her mother to take care of her and the boys.
She laughed and giggled that last visit as we looked over an old scrapbook from high school, full of her notes and drawings in her unique style. There were pictures of prom dates and slumber parties and nights out. We reminisced about the parties in my basement and the fight my father had to break up between two boys – over Laura.
She rubbed her head and closed her eyes for a moment, but she refused pain medicine. “It takes me away from my children,” she explained. And she was willing to endure an agony that most of us cannot comprehend, just to be present for Theo and Alexander.
Her memorial service was outside in the church garden. Two of her lifelong friends, Tina and Shelby, conducted the service that Laura had planned. And many of her classmates from the reunion she was too sick to attend, came for her service. They came from as far away as Texas and New York. We looked older, the class of ’76. Our faces are lined and our eyes are wiser. And that day, our hearts were heavy as we said good-bye to our friend Laura.
When I told my family, “Laura Evans died,” my son asked in disbelief, “The one who loved to dance?”
And I answered, “Yes, the one who loved to dance.”