I first met Debbie when I started working at my former place of employment. I happened to be hired as her daughter's boss. Deb also worked there, and within a month of my being hired, she and I were sent to a two-day convention a couple of hours away. She was a little nervous driving in the city, so I offered to drive. Being a non-smoker, I requested a non-smoking car, and told her that I would be happy to stop if she needed to smoke. I also told the company President that I would be willing to share a room with Debbie, but I would not stay in a smoking room. She ended up having to pay for her own room. About a month ago, Deb confessed to me that her attitude when we left that day was something to the effect of: "Who the Hell does that little bitch think she is telling everybody what they're going to do?"
But, when you put two Chatty-Cathys in a car together for two hours, bonding is bound to occur. And for us it certainly did. Debbie shared her life with me. There were many stories of ups and downs with her wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, and one grandson (at that time). And I opened up my world to her as well. I think her favorite statement of mine was in response to her asking if John and I wanted children. "No," I told her, "Neither of us wants kids. We have enough animals to take care of already." She reminded me of that comment every time she saw JJ. Then she'd tilt her head and smile, and tell me how precious he is, and that I make a good mom.
I've been known to call Debbie my mom-away-from-home. She was always there for me if I had a problem or needed advice. And I was glad I could be there for her, too, when the smoking caught up with her, and she was diagnosed with lung cancer. The original diagnosis was grim, but she was a strong fighter. And with her victory over the deadly disease, she gained two additional sources of strength.
The first was all of her friends and family who quit smoking to support her. She told me recently that she truly felt that the Hell she went through with the cancer and chemotherapy was worth it if she could help save the ones she loved from the agony of the same fate. And those who continue to be smoke-free will, in turn, carry her memory in that action.
Debbie's second source of strength was God. She learned that she had nothing to fear if she put her life in God's hands. And in that two years that she remained cancer-free, she spread the word of her miracle to anyone who would listen. When the cancer returned, she told me that God wasn't failing her. He just had another plan. And she would trust Him to take care of her.
I think He did. She was not sick for very long this time, and wasn't in a lot of pain. Her family had enough time to prepare themselves, and find peace in her passing. And near the end, she had just enough strength to convey her wishes to her loved ones: After the memorial service, there is to be a giant party. Rather than mourning her death, Debbie wanted us to celebrate her life.
It's no wonder I loved her so much.
5 years ago