My friend and I had a routine of working out together three days a week. It was a commitment to keep us accountable to ourselves and to each other. It was the foundation for what became a beautiful friendship that blossomed over the years. We went for long walks where she would boast about how proud she was of her kids.
Her oldest was making his way in school while her youngest was rocking the softball field. We spent lunches talking about my dream to start a coaching business and my awful fear of failure.
She was the kind of person who wouldn't let you off the hook or let you feel sorry for yourself for very long. At the gym, she would push through the pain with the justification that if it didn't hurt or make you sweat, then it wasn't worth the effort of putting on workout clothes.
At the end of our workout one day, she mentioned she would have to miss our next workout because of an appointment. She didn't mention what the appointment was for, but given our relationship, I decided to poke fun by sending her a card with a sarcastic message that implied she was a quitter and had made the appointment as an excuse to miss our workouts. I knew she would understand the intended humor and find a way to return the favor sometime in the future.
As it turned out, she had made the doctor's appointment because she was having severe stomach and back pain. Several tests and scans later, she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and would be going into surgery ASAP to remove a large mass.
When I heard the news, the first thing I thought about was how oblivious I must have been to her struggle. How do you workout with somebody and not know that something is off? The next thing I thought about was that sarcastic card I had dropped in the mail the day before. As funny as I thought it was, the timing and message seemed inappropriate. I regretted having sent it.
Following her surgery she would be on a routine to receive chemotherapy 3 days a week, every other week. I was fortunate to work in the adjacent clinic and would take her vanilla cappuccino. She called it her candy coffee. These chats became a precious part of our new routine. I'll never forget the time she told me she didn't want me to be afraid to start my coaching business. She said it was more than a business - it was who I was born to be.
She believed in me long before I believed in myself.
Those weeks when she wasn't at the hospital, she was back at the gym fighting like mad to keep her body and mind strong. She never complained and she never lost her sense of humor. She never forgot the sarcastic note I had mailed and brought it up if she sensed a whisper of my desire to quit. It was dirty pool but it worked like a charm and she knew it.
She died on Wednesday, April 4 at the age of 47. I don't think you ever forget where you are when you get news that shakes you to your core.
I was honored to be asked to speak at her funeral, but worried that I couldn't keep my emotions at bay to get through it.
I was driving backroads pondering how different life felt and talking to her as if she were in the passenger's seat. I told her I wanted to honor her by keeping it together but didn't have her around to throw sarcastic letter reminders in my face. Just then a flock of wild turkeys popped out of the ditch and onto the road directly in front of my vehicle, causing me to screech to a stop. Their necks were red and puffy and their heads bobbed as they strutted and scratched their way across the road. One turkey approached my vehicle and then suddenly stopped and stared. It was such a hideous bird that I couldn't help but laugh. I knew it was a sign from my friend not to take life (and her funeral) so seriously.
I made it through the funeral and the raw reality of her absence at the gym began to fade.
Today I was watching the birds outside the window of my home office pondering my destiny and the direction of my coaching career when a turkey strutted into my yard. I have never seen a turkey in this area and grabbed my phone to capture the visit. It watched me snap a photo and then darted off and disappeared into the tall pines.
Moments later it struck me that today is April 4 -- the 10 year anniversary of her death -- and chills covered my entire body.
In her honor, I made myself a vanilla cappuccino, toasted my friend, and began to write. I was reminded of her wise advice not to take life so seriously -- or give up on my dream of helping others find their purpose and passion.
If I've learned anything from my journey since her death, it is that life has a way of moving forward and we get to choose what meaning we give to our stories and relationships. It's a matter of choosing a powerful perspective.
We can choose to dwell on stories that make us feel powerless, fearful and alone. Or we can choose to believe that life is filled with miraculous and magical moments and that love never dies. It just changes form.
Today the blessing took the form of a turkey and I am so grateful.
Powerful Perspectives are those energies that begin with awareness and move above the line toward love.