Today on my music playlist the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Susan Boyle randomly played. My friend PSB came to mind. PSB and I shared a love for Susan Boyle and Josh Groban. It is not as if we sat around listening to their music, but we were quick to share if a new CD released; we would play each other a certain song we loved. We laughed that we played one song that captured us over and over and over and over.
I met PSB working in the HR department of a past employer. Sometimes I think God calls us to a place for just a little window of time because He wants us to meet someone; like that ancient Chinese proverb about the invisible red thread connecting those destine to meet. I only worked at this particular employer for a little over a year and a half. About a year in PSB was hired. She was having difficulty learning the job. I had not met PSB yet, but I sat back watching and listening for a couple weeks. I was irritated with their treatment of her – making fun of her, talking behind her back, and setting her up for failure – like big bullies in the work place! Now, I will fight the crusade for an underdog in certain circumstances and I certainly felt compelled in this injustice. One day in the break room, I saw her sitting at a table by herself crying. I felt her pain searing through me like the blade of a knife. I quietly walked over, introduced myself, and sat down. I explained to her that I knew there was a struggle and asked her if the supervisor would agree, if I could sit with her for the afternoon. She seemed thrilled. I made my way to the supervisor and requested that she allow me to sit with PSB and assess the situation. The supervisor thankfully agreed. Turns out her learning had nothing to do with her ability, but rather the inadequate, incompetent, careless failures of the trainers. What these morons could not understand is that training must be adapted to the learning style. We do not all have the same learning framework. In one month, I trained PSB. She became one of the best reps for the company and remained with them for about five years. God orchestrated that scenario to initiate a fourteen-year friendship that I treasured.
PSB and I also shared a love of designing and making jewelry. A couple years after I met PSB, she told me she was noticing the bracelets I was wearing. I told her I made them all. She was like, “What? Can you teach me how?” I taught her a few basics, but PSB was the type to dive to the farthest depths in her interests; she became completely immersed. She started taking classes at a little independent bead shop. I took a couple classes with her, but worked so much, that I did not have much time to invest. She ate, slept, and breathed jewelry design and began waking up in the middle of the night sketching out patterns from her mind. I was blown away at her all-consuming passion. In great haste, she far surpassed me. As work devoured my life, she decided that she would take the classes and to reinforce her skills, she would teach me the pattern when I could make time. It worked out great until I was too exhausted to comprehend a bead pattern. She then offered for me to buy the materials and in turn, she would make me pieces that she had learned. Fabulous! I still have several pieces and will cherish them forever!
One Saturday afternoon we were all three driving around to a few stores. PSB mentioned she saw on Dr. Oz something about ear candles. We were like, “What?” She insisted we drive around to the health stores and find ear candles. The approximate 10-inch candles, which are hollow fabric cones soaked in wax or paraffin cost about $2 each. Finally, at 8:30 pm we found the ear candles at a small GNC in a secluded strip mall area. We bought six.
We returned to our home. She was giddy with excitement. She decided Bryon would be the Guinee pig. We got a bowl of water to extinguish the flaming cone when done. We cut a hole in a paper plate and stuck the candle into the paper plate, which was to make a barrier between the ear and the flame to make sure candle wax and ash did not fall on his face. We had Bryon lie down on the bed on his side. We placed the candle in his ear canal and lit the other end of the cone on fire. The flame took off like a blaze of glory nearly catching Bryon and the bed on fire. We squealed, Bryon jumped up, we quickly tossed the flaming cone into the bowl of water, PSB and I were rolling with laughter while my husband said, “That’s it, I’m not doing this.” I did not think we would stop laughing. Finally, when everything settled, we actually burned ear candles in all of our ears. PSB wanted to see what was inside the cone after we were done. We set out cutting open those cones and looked in disgust at what appeared to be wax suctioned right out of the ear canal. Later we found out that the debris inside burned ear candles is supposed to be the impurities removed from your ear, but in reality, the debris shows up in the candles even if they have not been near an ear canal. We later learned that the contents were a blend of burned candle wax and fabric. We often reminisced and laughed over our experiment. She was always coming up with silly experiments for us to try. One time she arrived toting Bioré blackhead removing and pore cleansing strips. My husband refused to engage so we went into the bedroom and giggled ourselves silly playing with those strips. She continued to watch and share Dr. Oz and Dr Phil religiously. She told me she wished Dr Phil had been her father; she adored his strength of character and wisdom.
PSB would keep a small notebook beside her at all times. She kept lists of everything – to do, appointments, errands, scripts, and one list was everything she wanted to tell me or talk to me about next time we were together. I loved it! She called me “Sissy” and I her. Now PSB had her stuff and I had mounds of my own, but we never pushed and prodded for information. We enjoyed each other’s company and could chat for hours. PSB was not a Christian, but she knew I was a believer. Because my vehicle had a fish decal on the back, she called my car the “Jesusmobile” yet she was always ready to get in and take off on some adventure. I never pushed my beliefs onto her, but rather lived them out before her and I felt she respected my spirituality.
PSB was a girlie girl and I was not. One time she convinced me to get a pedicure and a manicure with her. I was so out of my element and nearly popped out of the chair when some Vietnamese woman began massaging my legs. Never did that again, but we laughed ourselves silly! Sometimes she would be putting on her make up when I or we arrived. When done, she would look at herself in the mirror, blow a kiss at herself, and say, “What a pretty girl!” Just comical! Sometimes she would act as if she was kissing her arms up and down, say, “Such a pretty girl”, and just giggle at herself. PSB had a dramatic flair. When telling me something, her antics were off the charts and made me laugh so hard. She had a confident strength that I lacked, which gave me a little more self-assurance when we were together. She refused to go to thrift stores. We would intentionally kid with her and say we are going thrifting today; she would get a high-pitched voice and say, “Bugs, Bugs!”
My husband, PSB, and I went to The Haunted Forest one Halloween. On the dark roads driving there, PSB kept saying, “My stomach is queasy. I think I’m gonna throw up.” My husband kept instigating the situation by pointing out how dark the country roads were. In pure fear, I like to never made it out of the forest alive. We laughed ourselves silly. Each fall we would take a color drive enjoying the crisp air and beautiful colors. One year we stopped at an orchard and took silly pictures with our heads in wooden holes – she was the scarecrow and I was the corn stalk. Late spring into summer, we would take a drive along the lakeshore. She would tell us happy memories about raising her daughter and taking her on picnics at the lake. She adored our two Maine Coon cats. She came over to visit shortly after having her knee replacement and our large male Maine Coon jumped up to get his dose of loving, but landed directly on her knee. She winced in pain, but loved on that gentle giant cat that we all adored. PSB had some health issues that came on after her knee replacement and revision, which slowly began to diminish her life. Her visiting me/us slowly faded away, but myself or my husband and myself would regularly visit at her place. She liked a fountain Diet Coke, so anytime my husband and I went to visit, he would get her a large fountain Diet Coke. She loved it! Each and every time, her first drink of the Diet Coke, she would say, “Ahhhh, burns all the way down” with a smile on her face. Sometimes my husband and I say that to each other to this day. PSB did not care for men whatsoever at first, but slowly my husband was able to break that barrier and gain her trust. She nicknamed him “Sparky.” They shared a mutual banter. Anytime he would swat at a bug flying by, she would wave at him and say, “Hi Hi!” It was something between the two of them. One Friday evening she announced that she wanted to go out to eat somewhere so she could get pancakes. We all headed to Mr. Burger. Unbeknownst to us, PSB brought sugar free syrup in her purse. When we got to the table, my husband asked her if she wanted him to get her some syrup. She loudly proclaimed, “Are you trying to kill me? I’m a diabetic!” In shock and humor, we died laughing!
Though we both never shared the depths of our ugly pasts, we quietly knew they existed. Little things would trickle out from each of us that we discussed in small ways, but I knew she carried a heartache that engulfed her and suffocated her at times. And, on four occasions, our ugly parts collided, fracturing the friendship into shards for lengthy seasons of silence – the first time an entire year passed, the second and third times a few months passed, but the fourth time two years passed. These seasons were very sad and difficult for me. Somehow, we always found our way back and forged onward without a word of what happened as if sweeping it under the carpet kept it hidden with the rest of our secrets.
As her mental and physical health issues continued to limit her, she lost her driver’s license, she lost her stamina to walk, she slept two thirds of the day, and I began an unexpected role of faithful caregiver — cleaning, doing dishes, picking up groceries, driving her to do errands when she could manage it, and taking her to doctor appointments. One day when I was visiting, she said, “Deeon, would you speak to me about spiritual matters.” In that moment, I knew that through the years God had been softening her heart so that she could hear His calling. For years, I steadily lived out and offered her the love of Christ whenever and wherever possible. I would tell her about sermons we heard at church and she would listen attentively. She knew a few old hymns she remembered from going to a little neighborhood church when she was child. We would sing those select few hymns together; she held harmony like an angel. I shared Jesus with her that night.
One Saturday evening she called me and asked if we could come over. She said she was not able to breathe very well and just did not feel good. We rushed over. She was unable to walk from the living to the kitchen. I convinced her to let us take her to the ER. She begged me not to leave her there alone. I promised. After numerous tests, imaging, and blood work, they sent her home suggesting she had a respiratory infection. We picked up her scripts, got her settled at home, and crawled into our bed at five am. I checked on her regularly. The following Wednesday she called and asked if I would take her to a specialist appointment stating the hospital had called to tell her that her CT scan imaging showed shadows on her liver. I tried to encourage her in my ignorance. I told her that whatever this was, we were going through it together. A deep, dark fog of sadness fell over us when the doctor announced that she had stage IV liver cancer and had one to two months to live. A piercing silence echoed so loud, we lost our senses, like a demon screeching in the face of salvation. For me, it became all business and helping her manage her affairs. That diagnosis and prognosis rejuvenated an inner strength in her that I had not seen in a couple years. Together, we got her life in order, visited the mortician, she signed over her finances to me, and told me what she wanted done with each and everything she owned.
Two Saturdays later, I tried to call her around 10 am, no answer. I thought she was sleeping. I tried to call her around 12 pm, no answer. I thought she was still sleeping. I tried to call her around 5 pm, no answer. I left a message each time, but did not hear back. Around 7 pm, my husband and I decided we had better go over and check on her. She had a security entrance; we like to never got into the place. Finally, we got to her apartment, knocked, she answered, and I felt such relief, as driving over I certainly was expecting the worse. But, immediately I knew something was not right. PSB had a blank affect. She asked what we were doing. We explained that we had been trying to get a hold of her all day. She sat down on the couch and said, “I’m fine.” I immediately knew we were in crisis. Her phone was blaring the off the hook signal and the phone itself was in pieces as if she had thrown it against the wall in frustration. I asked her for her doctor’s phone number and her daughter’s phone number. She kept thumbing through her address book over and over, but could not comprehend or remember what she was doing. I asked her if she wanted to go to the ER. She adamantly said, “No!” I asked her why. She insisted she was fine. Finally, I convinced her to allow me to call her Oncologist on my cell phone and if he suggested she should go to the ER, would she? She agreed. I called their emergency number; they told me to get her to the ER immediately.
We got PSB to the ER around 10 pm. The doctor began asking her a series of questions. Who is the current president – she said Reagan; what year is it – she said 1923; what is your name – she gave her maiden name; how old are you – she looked at me as if begging for help and the doctor went on. I turned my head and a tear escaped before I could catch it. The doctor left the room and she quickly asked me the answers to the questions. She kept repeating them in her feeble attempt to retain the answers in case she was asked again. She then began to projectile vomit. My husband immediately left the room. She looked at me in desperation and said, “Please, don’t leave me. Can you help me clean up?” I immediately jumped into action, grabbed latex gloves, collected up all the soiled sheets and her gown, cleaning her up and putting on a fresh gown, laying her back down on the gurney, and finished cleaning up the room by the time the doctor returned. The doctor informed us that PSB had hepatic encephalopathy; she was being admitted for further treatment. She begged me over and over to take her home. Finally, I convinced her it was best that she stayed because they could help her more than I could. I promised her I would be back each and every day for however long. Each afternoon and evening, I made my way up to the hospital. Each afternoon and evening, she begged me to take her home. Each evening, we would hold hands and watch Jeopardy together, and then I would tell her it was time for me to go home. And, each evening as I left her there, I would turn, look at her, tell her I loved her, and she would wave good-bye and say, “Over the Rainbow.” I knew it would not be long.
She recovered just a smidge, enough to get some coherency, but rather than allow her to go home, they transported her to a nursing home. It was a horrible nursing home! With much effort and demand, they finally placed her in a quiet, private room because Hospice knew the end was near. In the quiet of her room, she told what a good friend I had been to her, she said like no friend she had ever had. And, I told her how much her friendship meant to me. She said, “At this age, we don’t find good friends like this very often.” Our talk was minimal, but each night we continued to hold hands, watch Jeopardy, say our nightly good-byes, and she would say, “Over the Rainbow.” The last night I went to visit, I suspected she was passing away. I kept watching her intently, and it seemed to me that she was between two worlds. She would slightly open her eyes and slightly smile in acknowledgement that I was there, but no words were spoken. She would drift back away; a pleasant smile and peace would come across her face as I sat there watching. She lifted her hand in search of mine; we held hands; she smiled and drifted back to that place of peace. Finally, she remained in that place that I know not of and we quietly left. This time I quietly said, “See you over the rainbow my friend.”
June 12, 2014 at 2 am, my friend PSB quietly passed away by herself; I knew it was something she would do alone. I received a phone call the next morning around 10 am letting me know she was gone. Tears failed me as usual, but I sat in silence believing in my soul that the night before I had witnessed a passing between two worlds, from this earth into the presence of Jesus. I knew in my soul she was seeing and experiencing a love and peace she had never, ever known this side of heaven. I yearn for that sweet reunion someday!
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…”
Love you, mean it!
Here’s to you my friend! I sure do miss you!
Love you, mean it!