I met her when we were both single moms in Ashland, Oregon. I'll call her Shelly here.
Shelly's husband of many years had left her suddenly as they were about to move from Colorado to Oregon.
"Uh...I won't be going with you," he informed her out of the blue as she was packing. "I've found someone else."
Despite reeling from the shock, Shelly, trooper that she was, moved to Ashland anyhow, along with her two teenage children. She'd make a new life for herself. Things would be good.
And they were good. Her son and daughter began to adjust and make friends while Shelly, ever versatile, worked in a children's used clothing shop, gave massages, and set up a business as a personal assistant, helping people do anything they needed -- from cooking to shopping to errands to bookkeeping. She bought a charming home and invited her new friends to a housewarming, complete with her signature gourmet vegetarian delicacies. She was gracious, sweet, and one of the most spiritual people I'd met, even in a town that was famous for its spiritual seekers, including Neale Donald Walsch, James Twyman, Donna Eden, and Gary Zukav.
Each Tuesday night, Shelly and I would go together to a spiritual gathering and discussion group held at the home of a friend, Laura. It was in the lovely, hilly part of town, and sometimes my little Ford Festiva would grunt and groan in its exertion to get there while we chatted and giggled. A potluck supper was held before the meeting, and then Laura would light a candle and begin our session in her living room. We would watch the latest weekly video released by a large church in Portland, Oregon, then pastored by Mary Manin Morrissey, and we would discuss the video afterward.
Laura, an elementary teacher, would have to throw the crowd out when she needed to go night-night, as the conversation was so stimulating that many folks would have stayed into the wee hours.
Before I moved to Florida in 2000, Laura's group gave me a going-away party, and Shelly's gift to me was a soothing, relaxing massage on the day before my mom, daughter, and I boarded the plane. Ah-h-h-h.
Shelly didn't make the sort of comments that many people shared: "WHY are you leaving Ashland?" "You'll be back within a year!" "You're going dislike the weather and the traffic." "Florida is where America goes to die." No, Shelly quietly remarked that she had once lived in Vero Beach and it was beautiful. Ah-h-h-h.
"Oh, and don't worry about your daughter," Shelly had smiled when I confided about some family turbulence. "She's just an Indigo!"
"Oh, so THAT'S why I keep reacting to her by turning purple with rage, " I quipped, and we both laughed.
Other than an occasional e-mail or greeting card, I lost contact with Shelly until I learned last year she was ill. She didn't dwell on the nature of the sickness -- only that she was going to South America to participate in a healing community. She expected things to be good there. And they were.
Then I heard recently that she was back in Oregon, living near her now grown children, and continuing to deal with illness. What sort of illness? I don't know. I didn't ask. Shelly wouldn't want to talk about what was wrong -- only what was uplifting and encouraging and hopeful. I sent her my best wishes and didn't pry.
This week, I received a most unusual e-mail with the subject line, "I'm moving forward and upward."
"My dearest, dearest friends,
"Thank you so very much for all of your beautiful prayers, cards, emails, gifts and flowers. They have brightened each and every day. I am writing to let you know I have decided to use Oregon's Death with Dignity. I will be leaving my body behind on the morning of Sunday, the 19th. I have been blessed with an overflow of love and divine spirit supporting this decision. My family has been beautiful in helping me and loving me. My journey has unfolded with so many amazing gifts of love and angelic friends. I hope you understand that because of my physical condition I have been unable to reply and correspond as I would wish to. I am looking upon my new journey as a new birthday. Along with your prayers, I am asking that you blow bubbles and celebrate that I will be dancing once again. Please rejoice with my family. I plan to be moving into transition between 10:30 and 1:00 PM Pacific Time. I am so deeply honored and blessed to have you in my life.
"The following is one of my favorite poems.
"Love and light,
"THE SHIP OF LIFE by John T. Baker
Along the shore I spy a ship
As she sets out to sea;
She spreads her sails and sniffs the breeze
And slips away from me.
I watch her fading image shrink,
As she moves on and on,
Until at last she's but a speck,
Then someone says, 'She's gone.'
Gone where? Gone only from our sight
And from our farewell cries;
That ship will somewhere reappear
To other eager eyes.
Beyond the dim horizon's rim
Resound the welcome drums,
And while we're crying, 'There she goes!'
They're shouting, 'Here she comes!'
We're built to cruise for but a while
Upon this trackless sea
Until one day we sail away
* * * * * * * *
Good-bye, dear Shelly. I WILL blow bubbles this Sunday. I WILL celebrate. Please keep in touch, as you and I will be only one happy thought away.