The Christmas tree lights are on and candles are lit. Outdoor lights glow in the darkness as I sit with laptop and ponder the past year.
This New Year’s Eve finds me returning to join the crew at Bearing Drift. Somehow it seems right. I’ll continue with LynnRMitchell.com — I kept my own blog in the past when writing with the guys — but it’s nice to be back. As I reacquire my sea legs, it feels good to be “back in the fold,” as blog son Matt Hall likes to say. The intensity of politics is not a sideline sport here as all are encouraged to debate, comment, write, opine, and research. Politics 101? Ha. This goes far beyond that. And I love it.
So while my photos and easy-going commentary will continue at my blog, don’t be surprised to occasionally see some of it cross over to Bearing Drift to soften the political manly atmosphere.
But tonight I am finding myself thinking back on the past year. There were many changes that I didn’t expect at this time last year so I force a smile and move on … but there was one loss that stings my heart. That was the death of my friend Debbie who lost her two-year battle with brain cancer in October at the age of 56.
I couldn’t even write about it at the time. The words wouldn’t come to me — so unusual to someone who pours out words on a daily basis — and so I celebrated her life out among the colorful October autumn leaves that she loved so much. It somehow seemed fitting that she slipped away during one of her favorite times of the year, and every photo I took was with her in mind. But tonight I’m reflecting on this extraordinary woman.
We met at work in Richmond while in our 20s. She was vivacious, zany, a prankster, a thinker, spunky, and always full of life and laughter and fun. We had that special bond that can be found between close friends who have worked and played together, shared confidences, and gone through life’s ups and downs while remaining in touch, no matter what.
We had many adventures but one of my favorite memories is camping in Shenandoah National Park in the 1970s when three of us girls decided to go to Loft Mountain. Since I was the experienced camper, I threw the tent in the car along with the Coleman propane stove, sleeping bags, lantern, flashlights, and everything else necessary for a weekend in the mountains in August.
We hiked, took part in the rangers’ evening programs, and flirted with some nearby guy campers. It was a fabulous weekend … but I was still surprised when I read Deb’s Facebook page where, on February 14, 2009, she had written “25 things about me” — four years before her cancer would be discovered. There it was, number 12, written about our camping trip so many years before. She noted:
I had not seen the mountains until my friend and camping pro, Lynn, took me and our late friend Kim on a camping trip in the wild wild mountains!!! We had a blast! I still have the photo album with pictures of Lynn staking up the tent, me and Kim pouring beer and pasting toothpaste on each other, and all of us playing games in the tent after dark.
Kind and gentle Kim, who was only 19, was killed not long after this camping trip when a drunk driver in Chester hit her Volkswagen head-on. Kim … forever 19 years old in my memory.
Now Debbie is gone, too.
Autumn was one of Deb’s favorite times of year, and she loved the colorful leaves of October. During the years when I lived in North Carolina, she would usually come to visit when the weather cooled down and the mountain ridges were sporting the reds, golds, and oranges of fall.
On a September morning in 2014, she had called while preparing for surgery on the brain tumor. Her speech was halting and some words got crossed … but the laugh was still there along with the familiar voice. Not knowing how surgery would turn out, she called to talk about our years of friendship, and to tell me she loved me. I embraced her through the miles … she came through surgery with flying colors, which granted her one more year.
Sadly, however, no miracle was forthcoming. It was glioblastomas. I looked it up:
Glioblastomas (GBM) are tumors that arise from astrocytes—the star-shaped cells that make up the “glue-like,” or supportive tissue of the brain. These tumors are usually highly malignant (cancerous) because the cells reproduce quickly and they are supported by a large network of blood vessels.
Stupid cancer. It took my dad. It took others I cared for, and now it has taken Deb.
Sweet, precious memories flood back tonight, but I smile through the tears. Because with Deb you could never stay sad for long. She was too upbeat for that. Part of me can imagine her with Kim, together again … and so I’ll drink a toast on this New Year’s Eve to friendship, and to my friend Deb who brought zaniness, laughter, and goofiness into my life for 30 years.