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THE DEATH OF A FRIEND
I recently lost a very dear friend to Covid. We had known each other for decades. I wrote a synopsis of my thoughts, which I keep on my phone since I made a personal decision a while ago to exit from social media. Here it is:
I lost a treasured friend today. Someone who could always make me smile and laugh right out loud whether or not I felt like it at the moment. She was one of the most kind, generous, unselfish souls I had the privilege to know in my lifetime. And while I feel so deeply sad that her physical self is no longer here to make me smile and laugh, I will hold onto her special spirit and all of the sweet memories we shared within my stitched-up heart. No one can ever take those precious memories from me, they are mine forever and will be with me as I go forward, living my life in the best way that I know how to do. RIP Mary, my dearest friend.
Let me tell you about my friend. I met her and her second husband Tom in the early 1990s. We bowled together on the same team. It was a Las Vegas league so twice a year we would all go there to bowl our "sweepers" at the end of the season. Mary and Tom LOVED to gamble. Back then they would have been considered "mini whales" at the hotels we went to considering how much gambling they did. They would always opt to get the money back for our hotel rooms from the league and ask us to stay with them at any number of much nicer hotels, but we usually ended up at the Rio. My husband and I didn't have nearly as much gambling money as they did but that didn't matter to Mary. We were raising two kids at the time and had a very tight budget. I think she knew this but never made us feel uncomfortable or weird about it. Tom usually went his own way, sat at the bar, and played the quarter machines. My husband and I always went along with Mary. She never played the tables. Always the slots. Because she was deaf and had been since the age of three, due to contracting spinal meningitis. Even though she could read lips (her mother refused to allow her to learn to sign, she insisted she learn how to read lips and speak again) she obviously felt more comfortable playing the slots. Her luck with them was unbelievable. She almost always won, I never met anyone else who had the kind of Midas touch she did when it came to those slot machines. She loved for us all to play the same machine. Each of us would put a $20 bill in and take turns pulling the handle or pushing the button. And when we got on a winning streak (which happened quite often) and kept seeing the money rise we made so much of a ruckus people would come and huddle behind us and watch which always delighted her.
We never had more fun than those special times in Vegas with Mary and Tom. Although looking back, we also had numerous times that were equally fun outside of Vegas. We spent so many years with them either at our home or theirs for all kinds of events. Birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries, pool parties, friends and family BBQs, etc. Or sometimes it was just the four of us playing cards or dominos, which she was formidable at. Every year at Christmas time she would have a huge cookie bake (and arts & crafts for the kids) for all of the ladies in her life. My daughter and grandkids always looked forward to it. She had the most infectious happy spirit and a raucous laugh. Even though she and Tom were some 20 years older than my husband and me, it really didn't matter. They were always FUN to be with, age be damned. Then one very dark February day we got the call. Tom was dead. He had taken his own life with a gun in the garage of their home. She heard the shot and ran out to find him lying there. For the rest of my life, I will never really know what that must have done to her. It was one of those horrific, terrifying experiences that come at you out of the blue, like a freak lightning storm. Mary was inconsolable. She had been married before and her first husband had died of a heart attack in the shower. Many years later she had the fortune of finding love again with Tom. I knew firsthand how much suicide can knock you off your pins. I had an older brother who died by suicide. My husband and I tried to help Mary cope from that day forward as best we could by just being there for her in whatever way we could.
The years after Tom's suicide were very hard on Mary. She suffered on and off from depression and a sense of deep, deep despair. But that infectious spirit of hers was still there and she kept on going with her life as best she could. Bowling had now come to an end mostly because my husband became disabled and just couldn't do it anymore and I think for Mary, the bowling alley just reminded her too much of Tom. She ended up selling the home they shared and bought a new one in a town much further away. Once she got settled there she seemed to be coping much better, or so it seemed. She adopted a cute little dog she named "Special" and she became her constant companion. She held "tea parties" for her grandkids as well as mine in her beautiful and cheerful backyard. Every once in a while at her request, my husband and I would accompany her to the local casino to "play the pokies" as she called it. We still had a ball together however there always seemed to be a tinge of bittersweetness lingering in the background. But her loneliness and depression ended up getting the better of her and she eventually ended up selling her new home and made the decision to move in with her son and daughter-in-law who lived even further away from where we lived. Once that happened, we didn't see Mary nearly as often as we once had. But by this time she was now entering her early 80's. I believe her health, both physical as well as mental was declining. Speaking to her on the phone was not an option for us as she hated using a TTY phone and texting was difficult for her because she had struggled her whole life with spelling. We would get a card every once in a while but even that had dwindled.
Then Covid hit. Everyone in the world has suffered from it in one way or another during the last two years, right on up to today. Because we had lost touch with Mary we had no idea how or if any of it had impacted her. We had found out through her daughter-in-law shortly before her death that she had made the decision not to get vaccinated. She had made a decision to travel by bus and go out of state to visit with her daughter and then somehow contracted it either during the trip or once she had arrived there. I am so sad that she had chosen not to be vaccinated. But it's a personal choice for everyone. Maybe she just felt like since she was nearing the end of her life she would put her faith in God and let him decide her fate. I am also so sad that I never got a chance to see her in person for the last two years. But I had many, many years with her that are now a part of me. She is in my heart and will never ever really leave me. So I will put her in my pocket every day and carry her with me like a talisman. Every time I hear the sounds of a slot machine I will think of her and hear her laugh and feel her presence. I am blessed beyond measure to have known her. She was a rare, unique, and special human being. Anyone who ever has known such a person in their lifetime should consider themselves very fortunate indeed...
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