Friday, November 7, 2014

The Phases of Death

Shock. Disbelief. Share. Commiserate. Disbelief. Detail. Decompress. Grieve. Disbelief.

We lost a friend yesterday. A dear, dear friend.

It was incredibly sudden, which was "good" for her, relatively speaking, compared with the slow, painful death that some suffer.

Not good for those of us trying to cope with the vacuum in our lives and especially in our hearts.

I had talked with her not three hours before. She was in rather good spirits, based on test results from the day before that diagnosed her recent breathing difficulties as bronchitis and not the lung cancer she feared. She was going to the local medecin (doctor) that afternoon to follow up, and it was in his office that her heart stopped. She had been talking with him in her unique loving-life manner, he was saying something to her, and then he noticed that she appeared to simply fallen asleep.

We learned of her passing from a neighbor who stopped by not long after we'd returned from a meeting with our attorney in Perpignan. The neighbor speaks only French, and mine is still weak, but I understood enough, and her body language filled in the blanks.

There has been a steady stream of friends visiting in consolation. The village news grapevine is more effective than any social media and we've all avoided posting on Facebook. This is the sort of news that deserves face-to-face conversation, or at least a phone call for someone who is not in the village.

She was D-L's friend for nearly 40 years. That's a rare friendship in these times ... in any times.

I knew her only two years, and before I ever arrived in Argeles-sur-mer she was highly skeptical of me because I was American (and worse, from Texas). When we realized each other's authenticity, we became good friends as if we'd known each other for decades.

She would kick us in the butt, figuratively, if she thought we were mourning. Instead we'll celebrate her life with her many, many, many friends, some of whom are flying in from distant locales to honour her. We will sing and dance and laugh, as she did, as she would.

After awhile, life will return to what some might describe as "normal." But it will never be so again. Normal is having her down the street, the door open to her bookstore on marche days, the cat sunning himself in the window. Normal is her showing up at our front door with a "Hello, darling!" greeting and her lips extended for a kiss. Normal is having a spaghetti or goat dinner with her the evening we return to the village after a week or a month away.

"We will miss her" is not only a huge understatement, it is misleading. She has long been a part of our lives, and the wisdom and spirit she imparted will continue to be.

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