We were not close friends...but we did share the experience of being the only females in our corporate management reporting group ... and had some laughs as a consequence. Our styles were very different ... but some of our work-related experiences were the same ... facing the unique challenges affecting women in corporate america, striving for leadership positions. She was single and, like me, had a wild streak. She had a delicious laugh and an expressive twinkle in her eyes.
After I left and moved to France, out of the blue I received an email from Cheryl. Now, we weren't close enough to have stayed in contact after I left my employ. But she had contacted me (through my blog) and inquired if she could come visit. She had a friend who had ties in France and had planned an extended visit to Europe. I said sure ... after all, they were wanting a hotel ... not my ramshackle mess. Apparently, she had been following my progress and wanted to see what was up first hand.
Cheryl was battling cancer, and had won the first round. After her treatments ... she was on the mend and doing all she could to get the most out of life. I booked their hotel, they arrived and we spent a lovely September day together. We shared some laughs and told some old stories and drank some wine. Later, they splurged and ate at the Michelin star restaurant in town! we visited and toured Brantôme ... checked out the grottoes and little museum and other tiny sights my village had to offer. They got to see the Friday market and all its little antics.
We actually had some open moments ... probably more open than when we worked together. And she was so encouraging about my adventure. As crazy as it seems (the adventure, not her encouragement!)
They only spent the one evening and then went on for other adventures. I didn't hear much more from her this year, until in September when I reached out to last year's visitors for a hello.
Cheryl was in fine spirits, although she had faced a second round of treatments and such with her cancer reappearing. She was planning a round the world tour, told me her recovery was on track and commented upliftingly about my new life.
On December 22nd, she passed. I don't pretend to know all the details or to claim the loss of an intimate friend.
I do know, that but for life's crazy dice tosses ... her story and mine could have been switched.
I do know that it is possible that we both had already wasted too many years doing things that didn't provide succor to our souls and spirit.
I do know that Cheryl felt compelled to work longer than she should have ... solely to retain medical coverage, not only for her latest battle but for other issues that would have been considered 'pre-existing' and would have bankrupted her.
I do know that she made the most of these last years she had, packing in as much travel and dreaming as humanly possible when one is fighting for one's life.
I do know I can't change or regain the hours and days and weeks and years I may have wasted. For me, I choose to have no regrets. To celebrate the fact that I am on a new path. The path that was once a dream, but that I chose to make a reality.
I do know that all of these facts are lessons for me (and hopefully you too) and affirm the need for us to face our fears ... whether real or societally imposed ... and do everything we can to make this one life we are certain of the best it can be for us. The best we can dream of. The best we before only imagined. and we all need to do it now. today. this instant. A life of regrets is not the life we each deserve.
It doesn't take wealth or perfection or superhuman courage to live the best life you can. It just requires discovering (or admitting) what that best, most desired REAL life might be ... and then showing up every day to try ... to take that step to build the path that gets you as close to it as you can. for that day. and the next. and the next. tenacity. yep, it takes a touch of that.
I wish you peace and love and courage, Cheryl.
and I do know she wished that for me.