Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Make the call.

I don't know how to write this post. It's been bumping around in my mind for days. I've been staring at my computer for much longer than I care to admit, and still I got nothin'.

I like to know, when I start a post, roughly where it's going to end. I like to tie things together, round them off, make them smooth and pretty and full circle. And this one, like Mr. Darling's tie, will not tie. But I need to write it out in order to start sorting it out, so here goes.

I first met Bee in high school in the "smart kid" classes. I think that's the only way our spheres would have intersected because Bee was popular and well-known and I was, well, not. I was painfully unconfident about myself and my likeability and so tended to keep a low-ish profile and watch rather than participate in a lot of social things.

But here's the thing. Besides being popular, Bee was just nice. But that word doesn't catch the magnificence of her personality. "Nice" when written out looks dull and flat and smacks of faint praise. Bee was radiant. Incandescent. Luminescent. She walked into a room and the sunshine of her personality and basic human decency exploded like a supernova. She was always nice, but not cloying. I can't think of a more genuine human being.

She was valedictorian and as odd as it might sound, my most distinct memory of her aside from the thousand times she would smile at someone in the hallways or laugh or make other people laugh was her speech at graduation. She talked about Robert Frost, because it was graduation and someone has to. (I guess as the English nerd I was the next-most-likely candidate to invoke Frost but the fact that I spoke at graduation at all was a fluke. See: low profile. I wrote a speech about video games purely as a joke—possibly on a bet of some sort—and somehow ended up on the program. But I digress.)

It was a good speech, with just the right sincerity-to-cliches ratio, and Bee did a good job giving it. Even with all the other times I've run across that poem in my later years as an English major nerd, I still think of her each time I hear it.

Bee was alive, lively, living, full of energy and love and life, and made that road less traveled look mighty amazing indeed.

So when I heard last April that she had been in a biking accident and hit her head, causing spinal damage that left her a paraplegic, I couldn't put the pieces together. She was so energetic and bubbling. She was a wife and mother to two beautiful children. She was a triathlete, for goodness' sake. The idea of her confined to a wheelchair didn't fit; the two elements were not compatible. How could such a vibrant woman be contained in any way like that?

Of course she struggled, but her optimism and determination showed through. You could say she had grit. She was bound and determined that she would walk again, and every time I saw her post about another bit of progress ("I moved my toe today" made me nearly giddy with excitement) I gave thanks to God for the blessings He was giving to my friend.

And then in November she announced that she and her husband had met with a doctor who does stem cell surgery for spinal cord injuries, which had great potential to help heal the injuries and help patients walk again. Bee was an excellent candidate: relatively new injury, in good health and physical shape before the accident, young, etc. They were going to try it. They felt very positive about it and as though they were being led in this direction. They just had to raise the money because insurance wouldn't cover it. Lots of fundraisers went up and lots of people donated, a testament to the light of Bee's personality and influence. The surgery was scheduled for early February.

Last Thursday I kept thinking about Bee all day, thinking that I needed to contact her to see what she and her family needed and what I could do to help. But the Little Guy was getting over a major illness, I was trying to fend it off, the laundry had been stacking up and a million other big and little things were on my to-do list and so I didn't get a chance to do it on Thursday.

And then on Friday morning she was gone.

I saw it on Facebook Friday afternoon and felt like I'd been turned to ice. It wasn't true because it couldn't be true. If the idea of Bee in a wheelchair was incompatible, the idea of no Bee at all was impossible. I know I keep saying it, but Bee WAS alive. Vibrant. Vivid. Lively. Full of life. I just can't think of better words to describe her. It just did not, and still does not, compute that this can possibly be a world where she is gone.

We weren't super close. To be honest, my less-than-confident self wouldn't have been willing to swear that she would have remembered who I was without prompting before we became Facebook friends. But her presence and life had been a light to me several times in my life when she didn't know it, and now the world felt dimmer.

Bee, I am so sorry that I didn't call on Thursday. I'm sorry I didn't take two minutes before I went to bed to write you an email. I am so sorry that I didn't let you know I was thinking of you or tell you how much I admired your example in my life.

When we meet up in the next life, the first thing I'm going to do is take a walk with you and apologize and tell you what you by now probably already know. But since I plan (God willing) on going on living for quite some time yet, that next meeting seems impossibly far away. I know I'll regret not contacting you last Thursday for the rest of my life.

So I guess all I can do for now to make it up to you is that next time I keep thinking about someone, I'll let them know. I'll pay the visit, write the note, send the email, whatever.

Next time, Bee, I'll make the call.

My love and prayers go out to Bee's family and friends, especially her husband and two children.


Barb said...

I'm so sorry. What a loss. I called some friends today who have been on my mind.

jjangji said...

Thank you for writing this. And I'm sorry for your and everyone else's loss.

Tina said...

Oh wow! It's so hard to lose a friend! I'm so sorry. Beautifully written though. She sounded like an amazing woman!!!!

Lost in Translation said...

You are a good person and a wonderful friend. I wish you peace. Be gentle with yourself.

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