November 19, 2015:
“Pete! I have some news to share with you and it’s not good news. Our beautiful friend Tammy was diagnosed on Monday with stage 4 colon cancer… She is terrified but holding steady. Please reach out to her when you can and pray for her and her family. Hopefully we can help her feel hope and loved.”
I had not seen, nor talked to Tammy in about 10 years, even though she lived about 20 minutes away.
The next day, I went to the hospital to visit my beautiful friend.
What should I say? What will she look like? Will she want to see me? Should I have called first? Should I ask for permission? Relax, Peter. You can do this. Tammy needs a friend right now.
I knocked on the closed heavy wooden door. Tammy’s oldest daughter, Hannah, opened the door.
“Hi, my name is Peter, an old high school friend of your mom’s. Is she up for seeing a visitor?”
Hannah softly spoke, “Sure, come on in. Mom, it’s your friend, Peter.”
“PETE! Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for coming. How did you know I was here?”
“Tracy and Steve reached out to me yesterday on Facebook. I’m sorry I came unannounced.”
“Don’t be sorry. What a pleasant surprise! I can’t believe you are here. It’s been a long time. How are you? You had some pretty bad medical issues awhile ago. How are you feeling?”
How am I? Wait. What? Are you kidding me? You’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you are wondering about me?
That’s Tammy. She puts the needs and happiness of others before her own needs. A beautiful friend indeed!
Having seen her spirits lifted, Tammy’s husband, Shane, and her daughters left the room for a few minutes and allowed us to talk undisturbed.
“This really sucks. I’m scared, you know. I don’t want to die, Pete. Shane and my girls don’t know how scared I am, but I have to be strong for my them. What’s gonna happen to them if I die? I’m supposed to take care of them, not the other way around. And I haven’t returned phone calls, or emails, or responded to Facebook.”
Our friendship of years ago had trumped the distance that grew between us. She forgave my wayward friendship without condition. She welcomed me. She opened up to me.
A beautiful friend indeed. That’s Tammy.
I saw Tammy periodically over the next couple of months, both in and out of the hospital. She had and continues to have bad days and better days. She never really has any good days.
Friday, April 8, 2016:
Family and friends filled the Chesterfield Fire House for a fund-raising pasta dinner.
Although Tammy had been released from the hospital just a few hours earlier, she somehow found the strength to attend the benefit dinner. She and her family were overwhelmed by love and support.
It was a good day.
Despite her enormous physical and emotional pain, Tammy found the ability to bring out the best in everyone she came in contact with. She brings out the best of everyone in her community!
When exhaustion finally overcame her, she requested to see Tracy, a few other high school friends, and myself. Each one of us embraced Tammy and cried.
Tammy knows, her family knows, her friends know. And I know:
That cancer will likely never release its grip on her physical body. The end is closer than anyone hopes for.
I believe the French idealist philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, had a wonderful outlook:
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
And the spiritual being that is my beautiful friend, Tammy will never die.
For angels live in the experience between heaven and earth.
Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.