In her transition I learned how to live.
This post is in honor of one of the strongest females I have ever known. She was by far someone I was learning from in our union but didn't really know it until she was gone.
This is my friend, my sister, my inspiration and my motivation. She was the end for my new beginning.
Meet Cynthia, we were friends since the second grade. We couldn't be more different yet somehow it worked. She was Puerto Rican I am Dominican. She was light skin, short with Hazel eyes, I am slightly taller, dark Brown eyes and caramel skin . She was an A student all the time, I coasted on B's mostly and sprinkled an A here and there if I liked the teacher and the class. She hardly spoke Spanish, I don't ever recall not knowing anything but both English and Spanish. She loved to cook, I love to eat. She wasn't very friendly off the bat, first impressions were her thing and if you didn't meet her standards you were left out of the loop, I am very friendly, very chatty, very guarded yet open I am ok with flaws. She was not into showing affection, being as she called too clingy with her loved ones but if she loved you , you somehow knew it, I am all about showing affection and being clingy (in a good way) and I am very vocal and expressive in my love.
These are just a few of the many many things we were just not on the same page about in our over thirty six (36) year journey together. The one thing we did agree on all the time was we always had something to say about everything.
Cynthia was always sick with one thing or another. The usual colds and stomach problems as a kid, nothing you would ever think twice about. In our H.S. years it just became worse. Days where she would have a tough time keeping anything she ate down, we would laugh about it and it became a joke. Lets see how long you last before we have to rush you to a bathroom. We picked the places we ate or the activities we did always with the thought that a bathroom had to be close by or how far we were from the house. She would comment about her bones hurting, her joints etc...we called her the old lady sometimes. If you hugged her to tight or squeezed her arms she would complain of pain. We would make jokes about how all this was going to affect her love life.
Our Senior year was the worst. Her issues became more frequent and her symptoms began to evolve. She began to get tested for all sorts of things and at one point we had possible diagnosis of Leukemia. I remember her family starting talks on possible bone marrow matches. Talking to the aunts, uncles and cousins. I remember going with her to her doctors office and sitting there as he explained the procedure. How she would have to lay face down while they inserted a needle into her bone to remove liquid so it can be tested. The side affects, the discomfort, possible results, treatments and the list went on. We both sat quietly together for the first time ever.
Well test were run, life went on we lived our daily lives and doctors said it wasn't Leukemia. We graduated, we went on to become young adults in the work force. We went from single females, to couples, to committed relationships, to motherhood. I became a mother first so that shifted our connection for a while. Sometimes your friends can't get use to you having different set of priorities once you become a parent and it can be a friendship tester.
We regrouped and came together at a point were she was now a mom herself. Aside from that, she had by now been diagnosed with Crohn's disease. This is an inflammatory bowel disease, which explained all those years of her stomach issues. It can be due to genetics, environmental or immune issues research is still not certain.
She would bruise easily as well so often you would see black and blue marks on her arms or legs and cringe because they looked so painful.
Her health was poor and our activities were limited. Even going to the park with the kids at times was a challenge. Her strength came in spurts, some days she was fast moving others she couldn't get out of bed. Thank god her partner was helpful because by then her parents had retired to Puerto Rico.
Things went on like this for a little while longer until it became apparent she was getting worse and she made the decision to move to Puerto Rico with her son. She would live with her parents until she got settled and was able to move out on her own.
That never happened she only became worse, doctors through in the mix...Cancer. I think that is what turned a switch in her mind that said "I can't do this for much longer".
Towards the end she spent most of her time in bed, she really didn't want to be seen or see anyone. We spoke on the phone daily and emailed all day long.
We spoke about different treatments and her returning back to New York but I believe she did that more for us than for herself. I believe she was tired and didn't want to live the life she was living.
Cynthia was fiercely independent, very attractive and vibrant. The fact her mother had to care for her on a daily and that she couldn't be a "mother" in the full sense of the word took its toll on her. She would cry I would cry we would cry together.
We spoke about the irony that in our teens she had once commented she would die young. That in spite of our plans to age gracefully together, me still helping her to put on her red lipstick, that plan may and would never be. We discussed forgiveness and peace and continued existence. We spoke about wishes and regrets and purpose. We laughed and loved and reminisced.
I was aware of her concerns and her wishes and I made sure to be very vocal about them to everyone involved. I was determined to show the strength she couldn't as best I could.
I promised I would do the best I could to bring her parents comfort and to keep her memory alive in her son. I promised I would always talk to him about the mother he really never got to see.
In October of 2007 I got a call from her sister that she wasn't doing very well and doctors weren't sure how much longer she could hang on. I called her up said we were coming, not to worry. Our friend Ramon and I flew down to be with her and her family. She was in the hospital. I hadn't seen my dearest friend in a while and to see her so helpless and fragile in a bed was heartbreaking but I did it. We joked immediately and hugged and I fixed her lipstick and helped her in and out of bed. At one point I took her to the bathroom and while we were in there I joked how we were still doing this after so many years.
We were there for the weekend, on the nights we'd come home from the hospital Ramon and I would sit in the porch and talk. We knew things were changing. That Sunday we visited her before we headed to the airport. She was barely awake but she knew we were there. We hugged, kissed, laughed, cried.
As I hugged her for what would be the last time I said "I love you, everything will be ok. If you need to let go its ok. They will be fine. If you are hurting and can't take no more its ok. I love you." She said she loved me too and fell back asleep.
On the ride to the airport Ramon and I were very peaceful. As we waited to board we spoke on what this moment meant and how we didn't want to come back to bury our friend but that we knew we would. I told Ramon at that moment I would never sweat the small stuff ever again. I would live my life.
We returned to NYC two (2) very different people than the ones who had left.
On the morning of January 31st, 2008 I spoke to my friend, she could barely speak, her voice was faint and she sounded tired. I asked her if she wasn't feeling well she said yes. Her mom got on the phone and said they were calling an ambulance and taking her back to the hospital. I said ok and asked her to put the phone next to Cynthia, then I said I love you its ok, everything will be ok.
As I hung up I knew that would be the last I spoke to my friend.
She made her transition on the way to the hospital. Her sister called me later in the afternoon, I made some calls. Booked the flights for Ramon and myself, drove my daughter to my mother's came back home packed a small over night bag.
Next morning in slow motion we moved, I changed into my funeral clothing in the airport bathroom.
We got to the funeral parlor and immediately I was complaining about everything. Nothing was as she would have wanted but it was what it was.
We drove in the procession but I don't remember anything except anger at her wishes not being met, especially fact they did not use red lipstick.
I watched the white casket being lowered, her son drop a rose, then men making adjustments because she was being placed in family plot so they had to seal her in with cement blocks. I looked on with very little tears. This was a movie, for sure.
We came home the next day. Life went on. I wrapped up my relationship after eighteen (18) years together. Knowing we weren't living true to ourselves. We weren't growing and that was not acceptable to me, anymore.
I started at zero. I began to live.
Mourning the loss of someone or something comes in different stages and you don't know or even can imagine what loss feels like until you have experienced it. Trust me, period. Saying oh I can imagine it, doesn't cut it.
I didn't cry for Cynthia until September 5th, 2008 as I watched Sheryl Crow sing in the Stand up for Cancer special. My daughter sat next to me as I cried a river of tears, felt like never ending. I couldn't catch my breathe I couldn't move, I just cried. My friend, my sister, the strongest woman I knew was really gone. I would never hear her voice again. She would never call me Moon face, again. She would never wear red lipstick, again.
I don't want to sit in the sadness of my loss. She would be very upset at me and let me know it too. I speak to her all the time and these past six (6) years have been amazing for me. Full of love, growth, blessings, loss, fearlessness, lessons and Living.
I love you Cyn, thank you for all you added to my life and my journey. Thank you for the laughs, all those great meals, the decorating ideas, all the boy talks, all the hugs and kisses. Thanks for christening my baby girl, your apple head. We love you and miss you and Live our lives in honor of you.