my friend aly died about 12 hours ago, from colon cancer. she was just 26 years old. aly was a local theatrical stitcher who sometimes worked for me when i was still designing costumes. she was dear and sweet and kind and gentle and sassy and smart and talented and loving and every good thing you could say about a person.
aly had a young spirit but an old soul, and i liked her from the start. she developed the grannie habit of always having a piece of candy ready to give to ella whenever we visited. the last time we saw aly, she gave ella two pieces, because she thought it would be a while before we'd see each other again.
tonight i can't sleep, with memories like that filling my head. i look at my own sleeping child, in her footie pajamas and sweet brown curls, i think of how she has spent the past two days in a kelly green wig and her cinderella dress, feeling like the most beautiful being on earth--knowing that aly's mother has memories like that too, of a little girl dressed like a princess, of a grown woman dressed in a wedding gown, and that her very last dress-up memory will be the one of her child dressed for burial.
and i think of aly's husband, terry, who is already a widower at an age when most people are buying their first home and dreaming of their first child. i think of how he and aly did it all--for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part--they lived the whole marriage vow in less than three years.
and i think of terry's and aly's parents, who have watched their children go thru these indescribably hard, grown up things, and knowing they have been thinking the very same thing i think when i look at ella--"they're just babies"--how utterly helpless it must feel to watch your child go thru these things and be able to do nothing to stop it or fix it or make it easier.
i think of how utterly lost i would be without rudi, knowing full well that one day, one of us will have to live without the other and simply refusing to think of what that even means, because at least for now i have the luxury to do so.
i think of course of my own motherhood, of how i have laid my hand on ella's chest every single night of her life, to feel her heartbeat and the rise and fall of her breath--to reassure myself that she is still here and that everything is ok--thinking each time that one day i won't have the privilege of doing this anymore, that one day she will leave and have a life of her own away from my motherly attentions, and pushing out of my thoughts the knowledge that there are other, unthinkable reasons why this insane little ritual might be taken from me.
there's no point to this post, really, except that i thought maybe downloading the voices in my head would make it possible to sleep tonight. so i'll say the obvious thing, because i'm a mother and that's what we do: hug your children. hug your spouse. and be kind to yourself because you're someone's baby too.
good-night, aly. thank you for being my friend.