Just as we were leaving the house to dance our butts off and eat delectables at a Bar Mitzvah celebration, my little phone rang. I looked at who was calling and was happy to see it was my illegally-adopted sister-in-law, who I hadn’t spoken to in a while. Maybe we would be getting together soon, I thought as I pushed the answer button, but as soon as she said my name, I knew something terrible had happened.
It turned out that her mother had just suffered a heart attack on the other side of the country, things were looking more than serious, and she and her family couldn’t get a flight out until morning. After the platitudes of, “let me know what I can do,” I hung up, looked around my quiet room, then knew what my friend had been teaching me by showing up at our bad news for over a decade. A quick change in plans, a trip to Dillons to pick up some chicken and brownies, and soon we were at our friends’ home, just being with them for a few hours of eating, talking, laughing, crying, hoping, listening carefully to what could be gleaned from phone calls with Filipino nurses in L.A., washing dishes and just hanging out.
For several days, I’ve been absorbed in state budget cuts, registration processing for an event I’m organizing, and worrying about how many cookies I’ve been eating. Nothing like life to put life in perspective. All night, I felt a soul-aching sadness for my friend, who loves her mother like nobody’s business, talks to her mom multiple times each day, texts back and forth and sends pictures over the phone constantly. Whatever happens, it’s going to be hard going for my friend and her family. All morning, I picture them on the plane, transferring flights, on another plane, and soon, landing. What will they discover?
I don’t know, only that whatever happens in life, it’s our love for each other — our way of being in one another’s presence for the good and the bad, and how we treat each other in the in-between — that makes the difference. Meanwhile, I light the candle in my heart for my friend, her partner and son, and her mother. I carry them with me, and in doing so, my life is made better, even if sadder.