This past week, I’ve been thinking about death. On Friday, I heard about the deaths of two friends, the mother of a woman I sing with at church and the husband of my lifelong best friend, Sherri.
Catherine, the mother, was 89. She had suffered from the effects of a stroke for many years, and she had been bedridden since October. For years, I saw her sitting in the front row at church, a little confused, most of her hair gone, but so in love with God. Shortly before Catherine died, she told her nurse, “My stroke is better.” She was ready to go. Last Thursday, she passed peacefully into the next life. We’re singing at her funeral this coming Thursday, repeating the songs that were sung at her husband’s funeral in 1993. They’re together now.
After I heard about Catherine’s death, I gave up on work. Whenever someone I know dies now, I relive my husband’s and my mother’s deaths. I need time to deal with the turmoil in my mind and my heart. We had sunshine and blue sky with the most fascinating cloud patterns, the kind in which you can imagine all kinds of things, from animals to angels. I lay on the deck and watched them slowly change.
As the afternoon wore on, I took Annie to the dog park, where she romped with four other big dogs and a shitzu-maltese that didn’t realize it was little.
It was at the dog park that I got Sherri’s call, one I had been fearing. Her husband, Gene, had been in the hospital for two weeks, unconscious the whole time. A massive heart attack, coupled with out-of-control diabetes and kidney failure, offered a bleak prognosis, and he died. A week before he went to the hospital, they had been living a normal life with no idea that he would not make it to the end of the month. Gene was 69.
Sherri married Gene the same year I married Fred. We have shared so many things in our life. From first grade through high school, Sherri and I were always together. We went through lost teeth, First Communion, first periods and first bras, first crushes, and first attempts to play the guitar. We both married divorced men who had three children from their first marriages. As we aged, we saw the same chiropractor and took the same pills. When another friend and I formed a traveling vocal group, Gene sang bass with my husband Fred. I can still see them in their white shirts and red bow ties.
Sherri worked at Los Gatos Town Hall while I worked at the Los Gatos Weekly-Times. Eventually we both left California, but for different reasons. Sherri and Gene ran into financial trouble, lost their house and hoped to start fresh in a small home on a big patch of land in Texas. They had only been there eight months when Gene went to the hospital in Ft. Worth. Sherri buried her husband on her 60th birthday. I’ll be 60 next month. Now, we have something else in common, something no one would ever wish for: We’re both widows.
I’m thinking a lot about death these days. You never know when it will happen. If there’s something you must do in this life, do it now. Yesterday, I sat in the sun playing my guitar and singing for a long time. It felt good. It felt right. If you have a song that needs singing, sing it now.
Rest in peace, Catherine and Gene. May God be with your loved ones as they go on without you.