When we head north tomorrow, I had planned to introduce Sweetie to a friend that I've lost contact with.
Too late. Lana's obituary was printed in my hometown newspaper today. She was 55.
I am sick. God, why didn't I listen to that still, small voice inside me that urged me to call her - for the last three months!
We weren't childhood friends, or friends who meet for lunch or talked on the phone a few times a week. In fact, we were what I call distant friends, an oxymoron for sure. We were the kind of friends who seldom have any contact, but who, when we meet, have a deep connection and affection for one anther. Much of it was unspoken yet we understood one another. We didn't have to recite our life histories to one another. We appreciated and marveled at the discoveries we made about one another. There was always an exchange of jokes, hugs and laughter whether we met for five minutes or an afternoon.
I knew she had been ill though I can't recall what her diagnosis was. She stopped working about eight years ago and lots of people missed her presence. She was every one's favorite bartender - a job she took when she could no longer get hired in a "professional" environment. Her illness cost her lots of missed work and her looks changed to the point where her former boss felt it was a distraction.
Lana had a knack for talking to anyone about nearly anything. When you met her you felt you'd known her your entire life. Her wisdom and perception of situations were uncanny, though just now, through my tears, I can't describe why this was. Suffice to say, no one ever forgot Lana.
Every winter she had her choice of vacation spots as various customers had invited her to their homes in Florida, Arizona, California, Hawaii and the Bahamas. She always took one or two people up on their offer and invariably came home with them in tow because they just wanted to be around her.
She was a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, niece, friend and lover and today the tears are flowing and friends are gathering. Her funeral is tomorrow and I'll miss it because we're leaving here in the morning. I told Sweetie maybe that's best. I want to remember her they way she was the last time we met in a resale shop.
But, darn, I wish I'd called her. I've thought plenty of times about things she'd say. And over time, I realized she exuded an uncommon wisdom and grace. And oh how I wish I had paid more attention to it.
For all her suffering, pain, poverty, battles with insurance companies and various other disappointments, she never angry or complained.
I miss you Lana. And I hope you read this.