My Friend, Pam

I wish everyone could have known Pam.

She worked as a mental health counselor at the Ogden jail.
She moved away from her comfortable home, near family, and bought an old Victorian house down the street from me.
She drove a white Volvo wagon and looked like one of those classy ladies featured in Real Simple Magazine.
She showed up at her first neighborhood watch meeting with a new Blackberry phone and interrupted the officer to ask him if she could take his picture.
She and her husband bought matching cruiser bicycles and rode up and down the neighborhood, meeting everyone they passed.
She took the girls on bicycle rides and introduced them to the secret paths at the Eccles Art Center.
She called her Lucy of Narnia; both girls beamed whenever she was around.
She, very lovingly, wrapped Rachel in a warm blanket when she fell asleep on her bench at the neighborhood barbecue.
She walked to visit her handicapped son at the care center.
She looked everyone in the eye and greeted them with sincere kindness.
She wouldn't tell me the colors she had picked to paint her house; it was a secret.
She brought flats of chives to the neighborhood white elephant garden exchange. Enough to share with everyone.
She never said anything negative about anyone, or anything, for that matter.
She had plans to run for city council.
She had a way of telling me what she thought I should be doing differently, without being the least bit offensive.

And then she disappeared for a while, and I knew something was wrong.
She had been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer. Stage 4, metastasized.
She was the first of a long list of our family and close friends who faced cancer that year.
She started her treatment and went back and forth to the hospital for chemo, tests, more chemo, and radiation.
She got a wig and told me how convenient it was not to have to do her hair.
She went on walks and told me she could feel herself getting stronger.
She texted me from Sonora Grill to say she had four generations of her family there for lunch.
She went to an auction and made me try on her new fur coat.
She cautiously showed the girls her chemotherapy port and explained what it did; she didn't want to scare them.
She listened to the girls recite the Articles of Faith, over and over and over again.
She told the stake president that of course her husband could serve in the bishopbric; it would be a great blessing to their family.
She told me I worried too much about her.
She came downstairs to answer the door, even though she was physically weak and exhausted.
She told me I was amazing in such a way that I believed her.
She was the only one left to pray for. Everyone else had finished their battle with cancer and won.
She hung on for 18 months, far longer than she should have survived.

And then she passed away. With courage. And dignity.

At the funeral last week, it was evident how many people Pam had touched in her life. She and her husband had a combined family of twelve children. Her best friend since middle school spoke and said, "She looked for the best in people and brought out the best in people."

For a long time, I thought Pam would somehow survive. She certainly had the faith. And Rachel and Lucy's nightly prayers were so sincere and humble. But more than that, I really felt like she was going to beat cancer because she was supposed to be my neighbor. She was supposed to be my friend. I just knew it.

Her son talked about the possible reasons why she lived longer than expected, enduring such great pain. And then suddenly I realized how amazing it was that Pam had such a great influence in my life in such a short period of time. She was my neighbor. She was my friend.

And I was so lucky to have known her.


Mommy Named Meg said...

Pam sounds like a wonderful person. I wish I caould have been her friend too. Sorry for your loss Emily. It's hard to lose close friends.

The Ballard's said...

That was beautiful. You are lucky to have known her. She was lucky to have known you and your family too.

Rachel said...

What a neat post, Em. Made me teary. I hope your kids are handling the loss okay.

i'm h.mac said...

what a beautiful narrative. great writing! made me feel like i knew her too...

Rebecca said...

What a beautiful tribute. I am glad I got to meet her, sad I didn't get to know her.

Min said...

Thanks. This is nice. But I think she won her battle with cancer too - she is done with it, after all, and quite happy I'm sure though you are left to mourn. Sorry for the sadness.