Lisa opened her eyes and looked around her hospital bed. While she slept, the room had filled and for the first time, she saw the friends and family members gathered there. She arched a brow. “What brings you all here?”
Grief gave way to laughter, and those who loved her took a healing breath as Lisa did what she had always done, comforting those around her, easing their pain even as hers increased.
Lisa spent her last days connecting with everyone who came to see her, struggling to stay awake long enough to talk to each and every person. With labored breaths and broken words, my Aunt asked her friends about their families, about their jobs, about the things that were important to each of them. In her final moments, she told my brother to get his tires checked, reminded her sister to take care of their mother, asked that we all stop crying.
Lisa died as she had lived… caring for those around her, making others as comfortable as she could, loving each and every person with a love that had weathered countless storms and fostered life-long friendships. Those who loved her cared for her in return, traveling great distances to be there, spending every moment they could with her. They cooked, cleaned, and made sure she lacked for nothing. Lisa’s sister cared for her tirelessly, taking more on her shoulders than I think even she thought possible, exhibiting a strength I don’t think she knew she had. Lisa’s doctor, also one of her closest friends, came to see her multiple times a day, answering our questions, giving instructions, repressing her own grief in order to be strong for us. Her brother-in-law stayed up all night watching over her so the rest of us could sleep, her sister-in-law and cousins worked tirelessly to make the arrangements after her death, friends and family members crowded the house to help pack and move her things. So many people loved Lisa through this time, in so many ways, it is impossible to list them all. We stayed up late talking with and singing to her. We made plans for an empanada stand. We cried, and laughed, and comforted each other as best we could.
I never said goodbye to Lisa. I couldn’t bring myself to speak the words.
“Don’t say it,” she told me. “Say ‘till we meet again.’”
And so I did. And so I have. I have met Lisa in a sunrise over water, in the wagging tail of a dog, in the sound of a dove, in the faces of my family members, in the soothing words of her friends, in the arms of a loved one, in the care and kindness she nurtured and fostered in everyone she knew and loved. Lisa will never be gone as long as sunflowers stretch their faces to the sky and waves crash against the ocean shore. As long as incredible women love each other, and care for each other, and hold each other close. For this, I am truly thankful.
“Those we hold most dear never truly leave us… They live on in the kindness they showed, the comfort they shared and the love they brought into our lives.”
– Isabel Norton