Molly and I became friends oh, maybe 13 years ago or so.
She was David’s 4th grade teacher. And taught him at other times too, I think. I taught both of her daughters. Never taught her son, but for a year drove him to school.
Molly was sharp and true, intuitive. A great teacher. She loved God, loved her family with a passion.
There was a time when things were hard for me, and she listened to me. A lot.
At one point, over glasses at wine at Carrabba’s, I stopped, ashamed.
“I’m sitting here talking about this, and you’re sitting there with cancer,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
She shook her head. “One person’s hangnail is another person’s broken leg.” Not original with her, I know. But still.
She had been fighting cancer – all kinds of cancers – for years. It started with breast cancer, and a few years later, it moved.
I remember the night she told me about the bone cancer. It was Halloween.
We all lived in this neighborhood in Lakeland, this great neighborhood, called Lake Morton. Full of bungalows and such, one of the few older neighborhoods in Lakeland. Halloween there was the best. Everyone would sit on their generous front porches and hand out candy and talk to the kids and each other.
I took Katie out. As I recall, David stayed home and watched the X-Files. We walked the neighborhood and ended up at Erin’s house, Molly’s second daughter. Molly was there, as was Nancy, the oldest.
The minute I appeared, Erin and Nancy whisked Katie inside to the kitchen, insisting that she show them the candy she had collected so far. I saw them through the door, helping her spread out the goodies on the table. I wondered what this was all about.
Molly sat on the front porch and said, “The scan came back. My bones are black with cancer,” and she told me where.
“But I’m going to fight it,” she said. “I’m going to win, and I’m going to see grandchildren.”
That was ten years ago. Molly’s kids have five kids now – four born and one in the womb, due in April.
I saw her a month ago. She was still walking and even still driving during the day. Still getting to Mass every day. She gave me tea and a blueberry muffin. She had a Richard Russo novel on her dining room table.
Bridge of Sighs.
She knew what was coming. Over the years, she had kept battling, the cancer had receded, appeared in another place, and then another, and finally, this time, in a place in which surgery was too risky, considering her health, and so a couple of weeks ago, treatment stopped and hospice came.
She told me she was ready, but still a little afraid. We talked about all those things and more, and we talked about Michael, and her parents, and her sister, and her daughter’s first husband – also a Mike – killed in a car accident 8 years ago, leaving young Nancy widowed with a four-month old baby. (She has since remarried and has another child.) We talked about faith and doubt, about St. Therese and Mother Teresa. We talked about Purgatory. “I want to go to Purgatory,” she said. “I want to be purified so that all is left is love.”
I told her about the answer is Yes.
We talked about this beautiful world and the power of love and how very much God must love us to give us this life, in its mystery and suffering, and the unimaginable gift of eternal life with Him, with Love.
She had a very specific prayer for her she asked me to pray. I have done so, every day. Hundreds have been praying for her.
I said good-bye. She sat on her front porch on her house in Lake Morton and watched me go.
I was at Mass at the Cathedral this evening and remembered (not that I am prone to forget) that it was 8 months ago today that Michael died. I prayed for him, thanked God for him, prayed for my children, and prayed for Molly. Prayed that God give her peace and strength, and the same for her family, sitting at her side during these long, roller-coaster days.
Then when I got home, there was the news. Molly died tonight at age 58. Peacefully, her daughter said. At home, surrounded by her family.
I find myself musing that two of the three closest friends I’ve had as an adult are now on the other side, and I am still here.
There is a part of me that whispers,like Liz Lemon, I want to go to there.
Which then prompts a mix of thoughts and intuitions about heaven, God, eternal life, and the Communion of Saints.
What we experience here satisfies us only so much. It leaves us yearning, still. That yearning is for the perfection of all that has blessed us here, true Love, Beauty, Truth, Life. True and Eternal.
We say that in the saints, we see the Gospel. We see what Paul says, It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me.
And when they go, where they live now, it is Christ who lives.
What attracts us, what draws us to love, intimacy, communion…attracts us still. Draws us to them and to the Christ we met in them, and to Christ Himself.
Draws us to the place where we have met, given and accepted Love, that place which is here but not only here. That has only begun here for us.
Draws us to Christ, the One we first met here, in the mystery of the tangible and limited, in suffering, in this terrible beauty, to be home with Him who loves us. Who loves us.
Rest in peace, dear friends.