There are people who come into your life and change it forever. As much as my husband changed my life, it was Lisa who changed me. Her passing will change me again. Though it was shock for us, it wasn’t entirely unexpected, which lessens the pain, not at all.
I was 18-19 when Lisa inserted herself in my life. It was my first trip to the Big Apple and my introduction to the not-yet in-laws. Lisa was one of the last people I met. (My husband has a large extended wonderful family.) When we visited Davy, Dale, and their five children I had no idea what to expect, I was already overwelhmed by their gernosity and exuberance. To say they were intimidating is an understatement for this midwest girl.
Davy has a rather dry sense of humor I didn’t get initially. Aunt Dale was beautiful and so poised. Of their children David Scott was mischievous, April and Stacey annoyed one another, Jay was quiet, and Lisa, Lisa down right scared the hell out of me.
Now I’ve always been mouthy and opinionated. Just ask my brother. In eighth grade I learned that “it’s a free country I can say what I want,” and repeated the phrase a little too often. That’s around family and those I’ve known a while. When faced with complete strangers, and these were stranger than some, I’m quiet. Mousy. Try not to make eye-contact. Years later Lisa told me she thought I was stuck-up and a snob. “You had a stick up my ass,” I think were her exact words. But eventually she bragged about liberating me from a hum drum, unobtrusive existance. (Like I had nothing to do with it.)
We were not fast friends, but Lisa came to be the one person I love more than myself. Not to say I don’t love my husband and children, but I felt a kindred spirit in Lisa. She shoved me out of my comfort zone and I am a better person for it.
I felt a connection to Lisa deeper than in-law, friend, or even family. We viewed life in a similar fashion and understood one another without words. Our birthdays are six month to the day apart. She’s older. We share a middle name and once I married, initials. Our ideas on what constitutes appropriate dinner conversation drove her sister and my husband to another table more than once. For a few years, we shared a similar vocation and would swap stories of blood and guts.
Lisa was an energetic go-getter with a passion for life, adventure and travel. She could be crass, obnoxious, smart-mouthed and caring. We visited the national Aquarium when my oldest was one and she pounded on those tanks until the fish moved because he asked, “Why do they just hang there?”
I admired her for her intelligence and cringed on occasion over her pushiness. But overall, I love her. Funny how someone who let no one get away with anything could have so many who called her friend and loved her with such devotion.
Lisa supported me in my endeavors, always. She’d call bullshit if that’s how she felt, but if I insisted, she was behind me 100%. I talked to her when I had troubles. Not so much in the recent years, but I knew I could. She knew she could call me. We all get busy with our own lives. I do feel a measure of guilt in not reaching out to her more, even as it goes both ways. I think she understood.
Lisa was diagnosed around the age of 18 with rheumatoid arthritis. She lived long passed her expected life span. Not long enough, but nearly twice as long as doctors had initially given her. She endured multiple joint replacements and the pain that accompanied them. God love those who dealt with Lisa during her bad days. She could be a bitch. Pain makes us irritable and cranky. She’d admit that. She was never malicious in her outward strikes though.
Knowing her diagnosis, Lisa lived life to its fullest while she could. She traveled extensively when she was young and mobile. She venture all over the world, even after an exotic fly bit her taking half her nose. She grew a new one. (Her case is the subject of a medical paper.)
It was about 4-5 years ago that her health took a turn for the worse and she was for the most part bed ridden, living in a nursing home. Lisa could be stubborn and no one wanted to see her living in a place that wasn’t family, but all offers to give her space in my home, as well others, were kindly turned down. She didn’t want to be a burden. In ever Lisa style, my way, my terms. “Who’s going to wipe my ass?” was her answer to our somewhat selfish desire to have her closer. I helped take care of my mom as she fought and lost her battle with cancer. I wiped her ass. I sure as hell was willing to wipe Lisa’s. Lisa wouldn’t let me.
I can still remember if not the date, the day (near Christmas) she told me she was done. As much as she was ready to, if not die, move on, it was more she was done fighting. She refused additional surgeries and any medical procedures to extend her life. She was in constant pain from a botched hip replacement and had a blood clot that could move at any time and kill her. While most of the family was outraged that she wanted to kill herself, that wasn’t what she was saying, she called me because she knew I understood. We both bawled. Not cried. Full out blubbering idiots. Then we laughed and said almost in unison, “the best thing that could happen is the blood clot moves and you/I die tomorrow.” We knew the truth in those words even if others didn’t want to hear it.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen. For years, give or take a few, Lisa lingered, living in pain or so doped up she didn’t know what was happening. She had good days. Good times. Mixed with long stretches of misery. Loneliness. Uncle came most days. Others visited as we could. I wasn’t able to make it in the last year. I wish I had. She knew I loved her and I knew she loved me.
Wednesday April 9th 2014 my husband, daughter, and I attended the Adams Family Musical Broadway tour. We both admitted after hearing the news of Lisa’s passing that we’d been thinking of her during the play.
I will forever remember where I was when I received the news. I’d just arrived at the Marriot Hotel in downtown Dayton, a pre-event get-to-know-each-other lunch for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. When my husband called and asked if I could talk, I knew it was bad news, worried he’d been let go as his guard unit was downsizing again. What he told me stopped me cold.
I almost left workshop and didn’t come back. (actually I did leave for a few hours.) But there was nothing for me to do and my husband insisted I stay. I’m not sure if he was being brave, pragmatic, or simply wanted to be alone and knew I’d hover over him. As much as I miss Lisa, as much as it hurts me, she was his sister and her passing is devastating to him.
Some have said an angel went to be with the Lord when Lisa passed. It’s true, but that angel’s halo is crooked, dented, and a little tarnished. Still loved from above. Loved beyond measure. Fully embraced.
I love you Lisa.
Rest in peace.