10 February 2011

Unspent Dreams

peaches from Shonna
Every time my phone rang since last August, shivers would go up and down my spine. As time wore on, I hoped it would be the call so the suffering could end. Yet I dreaded hearing the news. I couldn't picture Shonna not being here anymore.

On October 16, the phone rang, and it was from Shonna's number. She hadn't been able to use the phone in a while, so my stomach was twisting and turning again. To my surprise, it was Shonna. Her sister had dialed the phone for her and was holding it to her ear.

Hawaiian quilting"Will you sing at my funeral?" Shonna asked, weakly.

Her entire family was hoping she would make it until Christmas. She did. I sang at her funeral two weekends ago.

As I got ready to go to bed back in October, after talking to Shonna on what would be our final phone chat, and I saw the jars The Lizard and I had been collecting for Shonna for three years. Before she was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, we brought her fresh Palisade peaches every year. She canned peaches. She always shared. After she started chemo the first time, we made all kinds of plans. She was going to teach me to can when she got better. I was going to help her can peaches.

The Lizard above GeorgetownWe were going to make a quilt together. She wanted to watch The Lizard in the Triple Bypass with me. She wanted to help with Makeover Madness -- every year. She wanted us to go to Estes Park for a weekend with her and her husband. She was going to write a book, and she wanted me to edit it. She wanted me to design a dress for one of the dolls she planned to make. She was going to teach me to direct music. She wanted us to come over for dinner when she felt good again. She wanted to go to the balloon festival in Albuquerque one more time.

Shonna never got better. Chemo took more and more out of her each year, as did the ferociously spreading cancer. But she gave it her all. She fought that cancer monster for four years and two months. Her last six months were filled with pain and suffering, yet still she clung to life for the treasure it was. Each time I visited her, she seemed to be drifting further from us. On Christmas Eve, she told me simply, "It won't be long now."

"It" took nearly another month.

Now that the pain and suffering have ended, I feel relieved. I miss the Shonna I knew before her third diagnosis. I miss her bubbly enthusiasm and her magnetic laughter.

Makeover MadnessMost of all, I wish we had been able to do all the things we'd planned. I wish she could have taken that one last second honeymoon with her husband. I wish her final years could have had more joy and less pain.

And yet, the things I did do with her are more important than the things we didn't do. The things I gave up to spend time at her bedside would never have brought me the joy I felt performing simple acts of service.

Bottom line is there are many things I'd like to do with family and many of my friends. Sometimes I allow life, commitments and work to dominate my schedule. I had always thought I will be able to do what I want next week, next month or next year.

Bottom line is if there are things I want to do with those I love, I shouldn't wait. I CAN'T wait. Not now.

One of Shonna's blue ribbon dollsWith Shonna, I didn't have much choice. We didn't make our grand plans until she wasn't able to do most of the things we schemed. Now the time has come not to allow miles, time or the economy to prevent me from living my dreams, showing my love, spending time where it counts most.

Bottom line is I spent the last six months doing what I needed to do and being where I needed to be. I gave Shonna foot massages. I covered her hospital room with balloon festival photos. I sang to her. I read to her. I was there.

When the day comes that Shonna and I meet again, there will be no regrets, except maybe over the blasted peaches I expect to ruin because I was never properly taught to can. But I'm sure we'll have a good laugh over that.

If you take anything at all from this, my moody ramblings, please let it be to spend the time your loved ones need. If you can't be cheering cyclists or admiring hot air balloons, just give the gift of time. In the end, that's all that matters anyway.

Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival


  1. Good morning ... moody reamblings ... I don't think so. I understand, having walked a final journey with a close friend. This was a most touching post, a beautiful read. You are a very special person, I knew that before and know that even more through this. You and Shonna now have a spiritual relationship. Thank you for sharing this. In this often too busy life we all lead we forget what's important. God bless.

  2. You write such true words. More doing good stuff with the people close to you and less time fretting over work and troubles there.

  3. Oh yes, spending time with people is important. Sometimes it's hard because I get busy/don't make time, and they get busy/don't make time and then we drift apart.

    I'm glad you don't regret the time you spent with Shonna, even though it was not what you had hoped it would be. I'm sure every moment was worth it.

    Love your last picture, by the way.

  4. Oh Deb, I'm so sorry. What a beautiful experience you gave your friend, and what sage advice for those who keep living, to make it count every day. How wonderful for Shonna that you were brave and thoughtful enough to spend her last days with her. Not everyone has the strength and compassion to do such things. You are an inspiration!

  5. I've got a lump in my throat that almost prevents me from typing this.

    You're right. All we have is today, the time we share, the time we give and spend with those we love.

  6. I read this entry this morning before work, and it's been on my mind throughout the day. Grief is such a fickle thing - coming and going when we least expect it. Truer words were never spoken about the importance of time. Take comfort in the fact that you were a good and loving friend, there when she needed it most. We should all be so lucky to have that in our lives.

  7. I think you have spoken great wisdom We travelled a similar road with our next door neighbor. Things undone are never regretted if there is the knowledge and memory of time being with someone beloved sharing the time and activities one can.

  8. I am so glad you posted this. I know your heart breaks because you miss Shonna and each time you write or talk about her, you heal a little more.
    If I am in need of a friend, I hope I have someone like you.
    Life is so fragile......you never know when...
    Love to you, dear friend.

  9. Just being to help Shonna in any way would have been special but it sounds like you meant a whole lot to her. You allowed her to dream, to make plans no matter how short or long term. I lost my first daughter to cancer at the age of 2 1/2. I did everything I could to make her life normal and happy. I then went on to volunteer with Ronald McDonald House.
    We all have a part to play in life. I am glad your friend is no longer suffering.

  10. So very true! I am so sorry about the loss of your friend.

  11. What a heartache to lose someone so special. I am so sorry for Shonna's loss to everyone who loved her. Bless her heart! The Gift of Time ... thank you for the reminder!


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