It was a conversation I didn’t expect. It happened almost a year ago.

On a bright summer Sunday afternoon my family decided to attend the back to school bash at a friend’s house. The anticipation of this event drew us in, my daughter counting down the seconds until she could swim in the pool with all her friends. As soon as we parked the car, she ripped off her dress like a superhero and underneath emerged a blue peace sign swimsuit. We walked fast, trying to keep up with her pace, as she eyed the swimming pool and all of her new Kindergarten friends. My husband decided to be the swimming martyr for the day and accompanied her to the pool. There are endless variations of high-fives, shrieks, and smiles from all of the five year olds.

I decided to linger behind, making small talk with the mothers, exchanging stories about how our children’s first week of Kindergarten fared. The strawberries and grapes enticed me to get a plate and I placed a piece of fruit in my mouth, while watching my daughter and husband play chicken in the water. Next to me was another mother, who I’ve known for almost three years, someone I enjoyed bantering with about books, our children’s habits, and general observations from life.

We usually talked about really nothing in particular, but that all changed with a single conversation. When she told me, I recall feeling a thin line of sweat dripping from the start of my spine down my back.  It was so hot my back was crying.  She started the conversation, with “Rudri, I have something to tell you.” She said this with a defined accent, her British roots not lost in her language.  There was a small pause before she entered back into her conversation. I thought, in the ten seconds that passed, she was going to tell me, “I am pregnant or we are moving or I am thinking about moving my daughter to another school.”

Those were all likely scenarios based on the friendship we shared. Instead, she told me, “Rudri, I know you will understand and that is why I am telling you. I have a brain tumor and it doesn’t look good. The prognosis is grim.”  My poker face always failed me when I needed it the most. I sensed the horror register in my face. And she saw it too. She says to me, “Don’t Rudri.” In that second, I got it. I steered the conversation into hope and the need to shun statistics about various survival numbers. I told her if she needed anything, I would definitely do more than talk, but be wherever she needed me to be and whatever moment. She talked about her children, age 5 and 7, and how she has started to make videos about various things she would like them to know. As she uttered these words, a faint numbness struck my heart and the noise of laughter, the smell of sunscreen betrayed the gravity of this conversation.

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I lost my friend Katy almost two weeks ago. We shared many memories. And this is what I remember about her.

I remember sitting with Katy in her favorite Indian restaurant, watching how her fingers weren’t afraid to take another dip into the lentils. We’ve shared many laughs over a plate of Indian food and Ethiopian food. She may have been born in the land of Fish and chips, but she had a deep love of curries.

I remember having discussions under the gazebo of her backyard porch. She would point out her husband’s latest purchase at Costco. She looked like a little girl curled up in her blanket and we would talk about our love of books while our children played on the backyard swing set.

I remember Katy’s resilience during her illness. She didn’t stop moving or let her illness define her. A few weeks after her first major brain surgery, she was climbing on her horse, riding again. When we talked about her riding, she told me,  “Riding is the only time I don’t think about what is happening to me.”

I remember Katy’s expression of gratitude. As doctors, nurses, and therapists piled in and out of her room like a mini-traffic jam, no matter what, she always said two words, “Thank You.” Quite fittingly, her last blog post, dated June 25th, was entitled “Thank You” where she graciously thanked  family and friends for all their support.

I remember Katy’s love of her children. I put together a slide show for her daughter’s birthday and remember how much she smiled and cried looking at images of her children holding turtles, rabbits, and posing with the parrot. She kept telling me, “Play again.”  I saw a mother’s love in her eyes, the laughter and heartache brimming at the bottom of her eyes.

This post is dedicated to my friend Katy. I will never forget the lessons you’ve taught me. Love and miss you.


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