“How lucky I was to have known someone it was so hard to say goodbye to”

Woke up this morning and realized my friend was really gone. Not sure how to describe losing a good friend. I know we have all been to wakes of family members and the loss is hard. But to lose a friend feels different. Some friends you actually see more than family. Some friends you actually talk to more than family.

This has been a hard year especially because this is my second friend who died from cancer. My friend Brian passed last September and now my friend Annie this month. Both were true fighters. Fought more than I ever could.
I am just so sad and devastated. I look at the broken heart emoji and that is how I feel. Cracked and jagged. Not whole.

Brian lived a quiet life with family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, Brian enjoyed being with friends and was quite a good dancer, especially at weddings, after a few drinks. I’m saying quiet in the sense that I never heard him raise his voice in anger or hate. We had a Facebook competition each year to see who would get more birthday wishes. It was our thing.

Work and education were really important to him. We talked about the end being near and what he wanted to do with his time that was left; he didn’t answer take a vacation or buy a motorcycle and travel the world. He answered that he had wanted to get a certain certification for work or take a certain class. I was dumbfounded by his answer. Why wouldn’t he want to take one of my best friends, his wife, to Italy and enjoy a beautiful trip? Why wouldn’t he want to spend more time with his girls and all of us who loved him so much?

So what would you do if you were given time? We all think the nice trip to Hawaii and all, but I now kind of see where Brian was at. I’m not one to rush out to Hawaii. Spend time with family and friends yes, but I don’t need a big trip to do that. Maybe I’m not really a traveling kind of gal. I’m happy in my own circle in my own place. When I think about regrets, finishing college does come up. Would I take the time to do that? I have old friends that I would love to see more regularly and family I would like to know history from. I would set dates to talk and have ice cream and take lots of photos with those I love. I think I would also go back to those in my life where relationships didn’t work out and let them know that at one point they were very important to me and that I was glad they crossed my path. Even if they needed forgiveness I would grant that so I would be at peace with myself and my decisions.

My friend Annie started as a neighbor and immediately became one of my best friends. When Annie first got diagnosed I had panic attacks. I felt bad because I couldn’t even go visit without crying. I went to see a counselor for help getting past this. I needed to see my friend; I needed to be there for her. But I also needed to get over my fear of losing her or I would miss out on the time we had left.

Annie enjoyed every day of her life before she was sick and even after she was sick. She never complained and even called to check on me when I was under the weather. What kind of person does that? A special person that’s who. Annie and her husband were big volunteers. They helped so many people over the years and donated so much time and money to those who needed it. She never felt sorry for herself. Always would say someone had it so much worse.

Always wanting to know how she could make your life easier. When she received bad news from doctors she would call me to come over and sit with me and explain what was going on. I was her emotional friend she would say, so she had to do it gently. Again always putting someone else first.

In Brian’s death I was given time to say a proper good bye. He was in hospice and I was able to sit with him and talk to him. With Annie I was with her on Friday and she was doing great. Numbers were good and she was going to start a new chemo on Tuesday. On Wednesday at noon I received a call that she was gone. Just like that.

Not sure what way is easier. Both are tragic. I was able to tell Brian how I felt about him as a friend and how important he was in my life. With Annie I was not given that luxury. I hope she knew how much I loved her and valued our friendship. Maybe it was her decision because after all I was her emotional one. Maybe Annie in her last gesture spared me of seeing her pass.

All I know is that all those clichés are correct. Call that person when you are thinking of them. Say I love you when you feel it. Be kind to others. Live your life the way you want to live it. Find your passion. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Do whatever today and do it well.

 

Donna Reboletti
Donna is an administrative assistant at a local school district. Worked many years as a customer service manager and sales rep in the publishing distribution field. Non profit is her passion, but it doesn’t pay the bills, so Donna is an avid volunteer in her community. A mother of two adult children and a Schnoodle named Vinnie all who still reside in the nest. A divorced woman over 50 who has been on at least 50 first dates in the last few years but still has not given up hope. Donna grew up in Chicago and had a great childhood in her neighborhood. She currently lives in the outlying burbs. She swears she has the best Italian/Polish family and has a fabulous support system of childhood friends. Her “Girls Club” keeps her sane and tries to help her not sweat the small stuff. Looking forward to becoming Golden Girls when the time is right. Her life has been a roller coaster of love and loss but she always keeps that ticket handy for the next ride. A big shout out to her 8th grade English teacher Mr. Purton who always said she had it in her. Donna tries to leave a little sparkle wherever she goes.

The Quote that Defines me

Read a quote the other day that said “The hardest thing I had to do was be a mother while my heart was breaking”. Thought about this a lot after reading it. Could mean a million and one things. Was it for the mother that was going through a divorce? Was it for the mother that gave up her child for adoption? Was it for the mother that was trying to better herself while being in a recovery program? Was it for the mom who was going through chemo? Was it for the mom who watched her child suffer after an accident or illness?

15 years ago I was two of these moms. One going through a divorce and one trying to help a child who was hurt badly in an auto accident. The divorce parts seemed easy after seeing your child try to hang on to life and see your other child try to process it all. My son was 16 and was going to his first day of work at a pizza place about 5 miles from our house. I had just moved back into the house with my ex-husband to give it one last shot at marriage. He was thinking of moving to another state but we also were trying one last time to fix what had been broken.

It was a beautiful August morning. My daughter had some friends for a sleep over and my son the night before had reconnected with friends on our block. The kids and I had just moved back to the house after being gone a few years. The morning started out like any other, breakfast and chaos with kids running around. Later that day we were going into the city for a friend’s son’s 16th birthday party. My son had asked if he could drive himself. I figured he would be safe because it was on one long highway, a straight shot. I also had figured his way to work on a back road so he wouldn’t be in so much traffic on his first day. He left about 10 am and by 11 I received a call asking if he was going to take the job since he was not there. I immediately let my instincts take over. I called a neighbor to ask her to drive me the way he went to work. I had a very bad feeling all morning even before the call. We got to the first road and it was blocked with police who said there had been a terrible accident. They were not letting any cars go through. My friend had grown up in the area and I asked her to call all the hospitals. The first hospital said they did not have anyone by his name but to try the second hospital because there had been an accident and someone was airlifted to the major hospital. That’s when I heard the voice on the other end say are you driving are you alone? I said no I have a friend with and they told me to give the phone to my friend. I heard them say get her here quickly. I started crying and calling my family. They were all 65 miles away. I got to the hospital and took me to THE room. I said no I don’t want to be in that room because then that means it is really bad.

They brought in the chaplain and she explained that it was very horrible and they did not believe he would survive.

After they cleaned him up they let my cousin in first. He wanted to see if I could handle it. When a 6 foot 2 big burly guy comes out crying you know it wasn’t going to be good. I went in and he looked like someone sleeping peacefully. They would not let me lift the sheet because his body had been mangled.

You go through the motions of hearing doctors and nurses and family members trying to explain it all. But you don’t really hear anything. It’s like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher. All you hear is Wah wah wah. Things start moving quickly and decisions have to be made. You think you have control over it but you really don’t. So you sit and wait and sit and wait. People start coming to support you and you try and remember who was there but you can’t. Time seems like it is stuck and never moving ahead. 24 hours they tell you and now its 48 hours and you are still sitting there waiting for a miracle.

Everything was a blur and today I could not even tell you what was being asked. One thing I do remember is that a nurse came with a stack of papers for me to sign. It was August 17, 2002 but all papers said November 17, 2002. I asked why that date on papers. Is it the date he would be okay? She looked at me like I was crazy and said I wrote August 17th and I said no look it all says November 17th. Which I told her was my grandma’s birthday. The grandma who favored my son. She was stunned and did not know what to say. A silence fell across the room. That is when I felt a calming peace come over me. I knew he would be ok because of that sign that was being sent to me.

And then a week goes by and then another week and so on. Seems like eternity. Then he wakes up and the next chapter begins quickly. Moving to another facility. No nursing home I say. He will never get better. That’s one decision I am firm about. So we move on to Marianjoy Rehab Hospital. And so it begins. The transformation. The hardships. The trials and the tribulations. The celebrations and the joy. The two steps forward and the 10 steps backward. The am I making the correct decisions for my son’s life or not? Time goes on. People stay and people go. Some can’t handle it so they move on with a good-bye. Some come back and try to stay but they just can’t. And that’s okay. Not everyone is cut out to stick around. But then there are those who never left. They were all mourning the boy we had lost. People say there is a reason for this. And you search and search and try to figure it out. Why would there be a reason for a horrific accident? But as years go by you see things that might just tell you why. And you wonder.

As a mother I had to sit and pray. I had to mother a child who was supposed to be on his way to becoming a man but was back to being a baby. I had to help my 10 year old daughter understand what was going on and help her still be a 10 year old and not grow up too fast because of what had happened. I had to rethink all my decisions with all my relationships.

My heart was broken for so many reasons. My child was hurt and almost died, my other child was now acting like the older child trying to understand her role and my husband was going to be on his way to another state. He is not my son’s father but raised him from 3 years old. He stayed another year and tried to help and we tried to take our relationship back. But it was too hard.

Love was lost because other things had to come before it. My first priority was my children and pushing my son to get better and back to normal. It wasn’t easy. Took 8 long years to get him back to being someone who could walk, talk and understand what was going on. He worked long and hard to come back.

My life was never going to be the same even if my son recovered. I was finding my new normal, hospitals, lawyers, doctors, tutors, therapists. I was lucky to have a support system that I did. My family and friends and the city my parents and I had lived for 30 years rallied around us. My friends in the small town where we had our house visited and stayed close. It was better to move back to the city the psychologists said because that is what he remembered.

My heart was breaking and still does every so often. I am 56 and this was not how I imagined my life way back when. I had imagined travel and growing old with someone. I had imagined a big career instead of a job that keeps me close to home, but understands when I have appointments to get to. I had imagined my son graduating college, marrying and making his own way. And all of this will be possible; it will just take a little longer. He is truly a miracle and is on his way to great things.

So there are a lot of hard things that come our way. But the quote is true for me. “The hardest thing I had to do was be a mother while my heart was breaking”.

Donna Reboletti
Donna is an administrative assistant at a local school district. Worked many years as a customer service manager and sales rep in the publishing distribution field. Non profit is her passion, but it doesn’t pay the bills, so Donna is an avid volunteer in her community. A mother of two adult children and a Schnoodle named Vinnie all who still reside in the nest. A divorced woman over 50 who has been on at least 50 first dates in the last few years but still has not given up hope. Donna grew up in Chicago and had a great childhood in her neighborhood. She currently lives in the outlying burbs. She swears she has the best Italian/Polish family and has a fabulous support system of childhood friends. Her “Girls Club” keeps her sane and tries to help her not sweat the small stuff. Looking forward to becoming Golden Girls when the time is right. Her life has been a roller coaster of love and loss but she always keeps that ticket handy for the next ride. A big shout out to her 8th grade English teacher Mr. Purton who always said she had it in her. Donna tries to leave a little sparkle wherever she goes.