(Photo I took years ago of Shelley, her husband Eric, and their children: Britton, Brent and Garet. Please keep them in your prayers and good thoughts.)
I was sitting in a cafe when Yann told me you died. Everything around me became as silent as the snow falling outside. I stared out the window while people walked by, their world had not changed, their direction had not altered. They didn't know you, nor did they notice me covering my eyes.
Death rarely comes expected. Even though you were so very ill, I should have known. I did know. But there you were faithfully standing with your courageous gutso, holding your desire like an iron shield, and lived against the odds.
Your life with ALS wasn't one of anger, or pity, nor a slow motion surrender. Damn, if you didn't live more sitting still than most of us do with able bodies. You didn't miss a day, no you didn't miss a moment. You held true to the people you loved, gave your passion free rein and at times I daresay you looked death in the eye, shook your head and tsk-ed, "Whatever." You didn't stop living just because ALS said you would.
The last time I saw you, a month ago, I teasingly said, "Shelley if back in high school someone had asked: "Who amongst us was the bravest person?" I would have never guessed you." We laughed. Then I asked you about someone or something in high school, cause your razor sharp memory never ceased to amaze me. You asked Garet (daughter) to grab the Tattler (Our High School yearbook)... I loved toying with you about classmates we hadn't seen since 1976, you were a walking CNN, Wikipedia, Goggle all in one... often I wondered how it was that you could recall everything about the people we onced knew. I tried to stump you by making shit up, but you never fell for it. You made me laugh. Hey Shelley, by the way, I know I wasn't the bravest, I could barely pierce your ear with those two clothes pins and that potato. I never knew that your cheering me on to pierce your ears back then was a prelude to your mantra: "I am woman I am strong."
God Shelley, you amazed me. Amaze me. Oh Shelley.
The snow continues to fall. The pine trees, with their frozen roots deeply underground, their branches covered in white, do not waiver. Do they hope for spring? Do they long for birds nests to adorn them? Do they feel anything after such a long winter?
You did. God you did.
"Shelley is now free from pain and suffering, she is with God, she is at peace." That is what family and friends will say. And it is true. But it does not make the sadness less, it does not make the pain of saying goodbye easier. It is not because you are free that I am sad. Contrary, being free from the suffering is the silver lining. I can see you, yes there you are, shaking your head at me, with that endearing smile of yours, "We are all going to die, so live, go on, just do it for me." Some how that makes me want to start jogging, or take up tap dancing or something.
In the back of my mind I hear you asking Eric (Shelley's husband) to re-paint the bathroom every six months in memory of you, and laughter fills my heart full. Remember when you asked Eric to change the fan in the living room, for the one in your bedroom, and to put the one in your bedroom in the living room? You asked me what I thought about that. Eric was in the kitchen, out of your view, rolling his eyes at me. I said, "Why? The fans look really pretty were they are?" Because, what was I to say, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. And you rolled your eyes at me. Eric moved the fans cause he is the husband that makes all husbands look bad, he would move Mount Everest to Kathmandu and back just because of his love to make you happy.
Yeah Shelley you showed me that a life lived fully is by embracing whatever comes your way, and if you don't like the way it is going, repaint it, give it a new name, watch a movie, move the fans... What you showed me was change what you can and get on with it.
Living a full life isn't the once in a life time, bucket list, glory, money or fame moments that we we often make a goal towards. It is being loved and loving. And you certainly showed me the truth in that.
Shelley? Are you there? Where will I see you the next time I am in Willows? What color will the bathroom be? Eric told me you will hold a paint fan in your casket like we teased you about? What page of the Tattler are you on? Shelley are you repainting the pearly gates with your father and brother?
Evening has fallen, the moon rises about the snowy mountain, it glows.