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Dear Marilyn,

PWHatPointing

I’m at your house sitting on the lanai and watching an impressive thunderstorm whip through the palm trees and create a rapid water flow down the canal. Just the kind of thing you love to watch. But you’re not here with me, and won’t be, ever again. In fact, these next few days will likely be my last moments with this particular view. I soak it in and think of all the hours we’ve sat here together over the last 17 months, your favorite place to whittle away early morning hours and cool afternoons. I’ve seen sunsets and sunrises right here. And watched an alligator amble lazily down the canal. Today the summer bushes bloom with vivid pink flowers and your orchid soaks up the moisture from the rain.

Today’s summer storm finds you in bed, breathing down your final days on earth, with family at your side.  Today your hard fought battle to stay alive ends with your diseased pancreas and liver winning the war.  60 good years Marilyn and 17 months intensely aware of the gift of life.

Marilyn&MeDinnerDuring those 17 months I’ve been hyper-tuned to living too – coming down to Florida to play, commiserate, share confidences, reminisce and to re-energize a friendship that began more than 50 years ago.  Every few months we’d resume our ongoing conversation, as though our past years of periodic contact were mere minutes apart. Our friendship was as easy as always with intimate conversation developing within moments of walking in the door. You’ve always been the perfect blend of friend and sister – frister?  You’re my Byer and I’m your Richey

 

M,Bob&MeSushiGeeze – was it really 50+ years ago when I’d run two doors down to your house every Christmas morning? Sometimes still in my pajamas, never wanting to be late for presents.  And there was always something under the tree! And a big family dinner to anticipate.

KidsWeekdays we’d rush home from school to watch General Hospital and Days of Our Lives with a giant can of Charles Chips between us – sometimes barbecued, sometimes not. You loved the burnt curled ones, which was perfect because I wanted the big flat chips!  Then during commercials we’d grab a cup of coffee and whatever wonderful something your mother had baked. Or a piece of white toast, butter, sugar and cinnamon. Your house was the only place I ever had that concoction.

Your family summer vacations down the shore always had me in tow. We’d walk the boardwalk looking for cute boys and singing Beach Boy songs. You’d wear short shorts to advertise your beautiful, tan legs.  Mine were covered but I’d display other attributes (wink, wink).  Then we’d talk the night away in bed til your mother  – achem – “asked” us to go to sleep.

Your family picnics, years’ worth of them. Yep – I went to them too. Aunt Edie, Uncle Rennard, Mickey, the Dearys, Uncle Lee – weren’t they my family too?

And all the evenings I had dinner at your house and all the sleep overs where we’d whisper in bed til the wee hours of the morning – even on school nights.

And weekends playing Barbie dolls and as we got older, riding in your Volkswagon Beetle. And sometimes even liking the same boy. That wasn’t as much fun.

And choir practice and colored guard and Marble Hall Swim Club.

Marilyn, Bob, son Michael & family

Marilyn, Bob, son Michael & family

 

And then Michael was born. You’d just given him a bath and placed him on the bassinette to be diapered then – woosh – his water fountain started and landed in his ear.

We laughed so hard we could barely breathe!

Marilyn's grandchildren

Marilyn’s grandchildren

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down the road came Bob Kile. Oh, I remember hearing about that handsome farmer you met whose blue eyes made your heart melt. You found the one – you told me – and were off to become a farmer’s wife.

Eventually you brought him here, to this house in Venice, FL – where you’ve loved living for 5 years now?  Your beautiful home, beloved lanai, bright sunshine and warm community. It’s where you belonged. And it’s where Bob took very good care of you – in many ways – most recently as a selfless, devoted caregiver.

 

Marilyn & husband Bob

Marilyn & husband Bob

 

 

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M&BobBoat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MarilynBySwampArea

 

Byer, you put up a noble fight these past 17 months & lived well because of it. Your determination kept you going – and fighting spirit inspired everyone around you.  That insistence to hang on catalyzed me to consider some important questions about life.  Thank you for that.

You’ve always been so full of life & so strong – laughed easily, loved big, vivacious and an easy conversationalist. Those who know you would call you a big person – not in size, but certainly in presence.

 

All the different places you’ve lived, all the different phases of life you’ve experienced, with the same being true for me. Yet we always stayed in touch and up to date on each other’s lives.

M&MebikeYou’ve been an important friend to me Marilyn. And because we’ve had 17 months to talk, you know how and why.  As a kid, I needed you and your family and you were always there, as were your parents. I told them that before they died. And I’ve told you.

 

What’s left is to say goodbye, my oldest and dearest friend. I love you, I’ll think of you often and I’ll miss you.  Til we meet again …

MSmiling

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Marilyn&Me1My dear friend may have just been given a treasured gift or the worst nightmare of her life – depending on her attitude.   She received the kind of news that none of us ever wants to hear.  The majority of us approach each day with a nonchalant assumption that we have infinite tomorrows.  And she’s certainly no different in that she gets to live her life and someday die.  Marilyn2The difference between her life and mine is that her lifespan now has a calendar attached while I still exist in blissful ignorance of my last day.  Though she doesn’t really know either, she is aware of medical statistics that place the odds of living a long, healthy life in my favor and not hers.

Marilyn has metastatic pancreatic cancer that’s now in her liver too.  With a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs doctors might be able to keep the cancer in check for months, possibly years if she joins the small percentage of people who do.  And time will tell, assuming her tolerance to the drugs goes “reasonably well” (doctor parlance for “manageable side effects”).

While the clock is ticking Marilyn can live each day to its fullest, prioritizing her life in a way that few of us ever do.   I’ve put myself in Marilyn’s shoes, hypothetically, and here are the questions I’m asking myself …

Am I living my life the way I want to?  If not, what do I need to change?

            Who are the important people in my life I need to spend time with?

            Who are the people I need to forgive or ask for their forgiveness?

            What do I obsess about that I need to shed?

            Is there a dream I need to pursue before time is gone?

            Are there places on earth I’ve always wanted to visit?

            What is truly important to me?

            What do I need to stop doing?

What should I start doing?

            How often to I appreciate the specialness of each mundane day?

Where do I find joy?

Marilyn:BobAnswering those questions can be gifts to all of us, including Marilyn.  The key, then, is to change our lives accordingly, if necessary, so we can truly live out our days and not sleep walk through them.  Those of us who live in mystery of the end rarely take time to appreciate the daily spoils of life.

Meanwhile, my answers to those questions are still percolating around my system.  But I’m grateful for the wake-up call and send Marilyn ongoing wishes for healing while she processes those questions too.

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