It’s been five years since the passing of my dear friend Carolyn Moeller. I will never forget driving home from our family vacation for her funeral. As we were driving, I received a call from my doctor’s office telling me I had a suspicious mammogram. I couldn’t even consider me being diagnosed with breast cancer at the time. All I could do was put one foot in front of the other and keep going for my family and hers. Her life and death has had such an impact on my life. My memories of her are so precious and bring me such happiness. At the same time not having her here to talk to, walk with, play tennis or golf with, or go on adventures with our kids is something that leaves me feeling empty. She had so much to offer and understood the importance of living life to the fullest. She knew how to make me see the importance of just having fun and not to sweat the small stuff. She knew the importance of spending time with her children and making every moment count. She didn’t get caught up in gossip or drama. She was just happy and always found a way to make things special for our kids.
In the following weeks, I was diagnosed with breast cancer too. While I was going through treatment, I couldn’t help but think Carolyn must be mad at me. Maybe I didn’t do enough to help her, or maybe I wasn’t doing enough for her kids. Why else would this be happening? But then after sharing my fears with my sweet friend Teri, she said something I will never forget, something that I always hold on to. She said, “Marilyn, she’s not mad at you, she’s saving you”. As tears flowed down my cheeks, I finally found a sense of relief. I also found courage and strength.
I had a talk with my oldest son recently. It was the first time we really talked about her in detail since her passing and the impact her death and my diagnosis had on his life. To see his face as he talked about what a sad time that was and how much pain it caused him broke my heart. He was 15 at the time and kept quiet about everything. I tried to talk to him, but he said he was fine. I tried to keep things “normal”, but there was no normal. Things would never be the same and my children had to learn what it meant to lose someone they loved and cared about. They also had to deal with the fact that their own mother had the same diagnosis that killed their best friends mother. There was nothing I could really say except that I was sorry.
How do we find the right words to help our children through horribly difficult issues of life and death? How do we comfort them, and assure them it will all be okay when it’s really not? I can remember my younger son crying one night shortly after I told him about my cancer. I asked him if he was afraid I would die. He cried out, “yes”, and I told him the only thing I knew to be true. “I know you’re scared. I know there’s no guarantee, but I also know this Adam. I’m not going to die today and I’m not going to die tomorrow. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure the cancer is gone. And with the knowledge I have from what Mrs. Moeller went through I’m going to make good decisions and fight with all the strength I have to be here.”
It’s been five years since her passing and my diagnosis. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. I’m grateful for the time we had and for the opportunity I had to know her and call her my friend. I’m grateful my children had that opportunity too. She was one of a kind and one of the few people I could call an angel here on earth and mean it.