I wrote this last week, when I didn't know how the story would end.
I'm publishing it now because the story hasn't ended; Cait is still beautiful and patient and kind in ways I cannot fathom becoming, so I will strive to be more like her.
I'm in Pensacola for a friend's mother's funeral.
The death was sudden. The cause is unknown. Most likely, the cause will remain unknown, as her primary care physician, the one who will sign her death certificate, overmedicated her for years. If he doesn't call for an autopsy, one won't be performed. (This is how I understand it. I'm sure someone else can fill me in on Florida legal procedure.)
It's kind of like how I imagine Michael Jackson might have died, except she wasn't famous, and she is survived by my friend.
My friend's father also passed suddenly, in the fall of 2006, so she is now parentless at the age of 33.
And she doesn't know why. And she probably won't.
If any of us found ourselves in this circumstance, we would probably throw a pity party. We would be entitled to scream our anger, sadness, rage, relief, frustration, guilt, and hurt from the rooftops. All of our friends and loved ones would understand our grief.
My friend is not doing any of those things, despite the fact that she's feeling all of those feelings, trying to deal with four estates (because both sets of grandparents' and both parents' estates are in the one house), and, for kicks!, raising a seven month old.
The grace and dignity she is showing in the face of incredible defeat is more inspiring than I can begin to describe.
I helped my friend edit her mother's obituary. I will listen to her give the eulogy later today, as I listened to another friend give his mother's eulogy 25 months ago. She intends to write it as though she's writing to her daughter, telling the stories of her mother she intends to pass along to her daughter, and, in this way, keep her alive.
And I will hold her hand when she needs it, or bring her ice cream or a case of wine or some Kleenex once we get back to New Orleans. I will laugh with her good times and listen during her bad times. Because that's what friends are for.
My all-time favorite quote, and one that has become my mantra, was published in Real Simple in May 2009. I cut out the thought and put it on my office bulletin board during a month when I met Ray Nagin after facilitating AP exams for 76 students, when I got pneumonia, when my parents weren't speaking to me.
"Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you." --Elsie de Wolfe
I'm still alive. And so is Cait.