Several years ago I met a lady who quickly became a loyal friend. We had many things in common including dealing with Breast Cancer. This is not why I cared so much for Caren....no I loved her for so much more. I worked with/for her daughter, Tiffany, during my years at GE. Tiffany was like a daughter to me. She was younger than my own daughter, she was kind and understanding. In fact if Tiff had the choice to be right or be kind she always chose kindness. I think probably Tiffany was our first link to what was to become a knowing, loving and understanding friendship. Caren lived in the city, I out in the rural area. She didn't drive, well she could but she chose not too and everyone knows how I dislike driving in Edmonton. Our face time was limited over the years but through Tiffany we had shopping trips, lunches and shared parties held by Tiffany and her sister Charney. I just really enjoyed being with Caren and her family, they made me feel loved, I wasn't invisible to them, I had a connection with a beautiful family. At times Caren and I laughed so hard our bellies ached and only her and I even knew what we were laughing at and I have to admit there were times we didn't even understand, we only knew it was funny to us. She had a wicked sense of humor, could find the humor in almost every circumstance. We did spend a lot of time chatting on the phone promising not to reveal each others secrets, we e-mailed and face booked a.lot.
Caren and I both lost our left breast to cancer, she once said gosh we are pathetic we still couldn't make a pair with what's left together could we. She sounded so serious and with the look on her face I broke out laughing and when she realized what she had said and saw how hard I laughed she too began too laugh. We said other things that day and laughed so much and again only her & I "got it". We didn't even try to explain what was so funny to us. This happened to us many times, one afternoon she called me.....it was snowing outside and so cold so she thought we could be miserable together and within 5 minutes we were laughing. We shared our thoughts, the good, bad and the ugly. Our fears were real but together we were able to calm each other down before something would start us laughing again. This was our strongest bond.......laughter! Through her wit I was able to see the humor in almost everything. It could have had something to do with the fact we were both Gemini's born only 2 days apart yet she was much younger than me.
Caren found it hard at times to share her feelings with those she loved the most. She didn't want them worrying about her, her biggest wish was that everyone would carry on as though all were normal. She realized there was a life outside of her cancer, outside of her even and that everyone was busy with their own lives. I am not sure she realized how loved she was. She loved her family so much, her husband, her daughters and her four beautiful grandchildren. One of her wishes was that her grandchildren always know her and how much she loved them. She knew it would have to be through pictures and other people's memories but she tried to create what memories she could with them, even through her illness.
Caren had the greatest sisters ever......every year they would go to Vegas together, wear the same hats so that if they got separated someone always seem to say "oh I saw someone wearing that hat over there a minute ago" and she knew where her sisters were, having fun and always close by. Oh how she loved Debbie and Dee. They laughed more than her and I did. She knew their time together was going to be short and she tried to make it fun and full of good times and memories. She was a wonderful big sister and they loved her just as she was.
Okay back to the bracelet. Tiffany took her mom and I shopping one day, we needed a couple of those "special" bra's. While there we both noticed this really cute bracelet. It wasn't expensive but they only had one. It was an imitation Tiffany Bracelet really. Round silver balls with a heart hanging from it, the heart had a small amethyst in it. Anyway I said go ahead you get it, she said no.....you work, go out more than I do and will wear it more so you get it. We went back and forth on it but I was the one who bought it and wore it often. Whenever we saw each other and I had it on she would always say "there's my bracelet"
Caren eventually became very ill, her cancer had spread to many parts of her body and the last was too her brain. My sweet friend went to hospice. Her sister Debbie and daughter Tiffany were talking to her about me one day but Caren just couldn't remember me or say my name. Tiffany told me as she knew I was going to visit her mom and she wanted to prepare me. Hospice was an hours drive from where I live but I made the drive, found The General and was looking forward to seeing my dear friend.
As Caren grew weaker, I grew stronger. I had to see her, no excuse, and I did. I had prepared to see her very sick and was even prepared for her not to recognize me. It didn't matter, I was okay with whatever happened as I realized it wasn't about me, it was about Caren. I hadn't dressed any particular way but I did wear the bracelet we both had loved. I didn' event think anything about it as I put it on. Honestly I only wore it because it matched my outfit, no other reason. As I walked into Caren's room she was almost asleep. I bent over and kissed her forehead, she opened her eyes and she looked at me and smiled, she said "Bernie, my bracelet". Oh my eyes filled with tears as my heart filled with love. We chatted and I was surprised at how she was able to carry and understand our conversation although at times she was a bit confused. As I was putting hand cream on her hands her sister Debbie came in. It was so good to see her and watch Caren's eyes light up when she saw her. I loved my time with Caren and Debbie that afternoon. Before I left I slipped the bracelet off my wrist and placed it on Caren's. It looked good on her, it was with the wonderful lady who was suppose to have it. Charney, Caren's oldest daughter told me later that she wouldn't take it off.
Last week week I visited her again, she looked at me then pointed to the bracelet and I knew that she knew who I was. I don't know why, I would of understood if she didn't but I was so pleased she knew it was Bernie who was there. Over the years Caren and I have shared many confidences and that afternoon we shared even more. I knew she was weaker than last week, even a bit more confused but there were times she was so clear and I believe knew exactly what she was saying. Without breaking our confidence in each other's secrets I know she would want me to say how much she loved her family, and sometimes worried about leaving them. She was putting them first, and I love her for that. I hugged her from me and then I said this one is from Debbie and she turned her head and said "where is she" We talked about her family, her mother and father, her sisters and her husband Boo. Oh how she loved him, and even made me smile as she told me of a few things that had happened during their 37 years of marriage. What is important here is that she was perfectly clear when she told me how much she loved and appreciated her family. She even was a bit worried about me, don't know why really just sharing with you what she expressed.
Caren passed away early Thursday morning, I don't know why but her passing hit me very hard. It was a day of tears for me and that night at dinner I had 2 glasses of wine, one for me and one for my dear friend Caren.
Caren was cremated Thursday afternoon. Tiffany and Charney had used the moisturizer I had given her as they prepared her for the end of her journey and had her cremated with the bracelet on. I was so happy to have the bracelet go with her, it brought me comfort. I love you sweet lady, and I love that I had the opportunity to tell you I did and how much I appreciated your friendship. I promised you that day that if Tiffany or Charney ever needed me, I would be there for them. This promise I will never break.
Rest in Peace dear friend, we will meet and laugh again. Of this I am sure!