Monday, January 3, 2011

The last letter.

Dear Ellen

It will be one year tomorrow since you died.

This is what I've realized and learned within the past years journey...

You were the most vibrant, full of life and loving person I'd ever met. Strong and strong willed, yet shy and withdrawn into your shell when frightened. Hard working and honest to a fault. Intelligent, creative and insightful. Affectionate and kind, quick to laugh, sweet natured, but with a wicked sense of humor. Generous and beautiful both inside and out. Most of all, you lived life to its fullest from the first time I met you.

Cancer changed your ability to live life the way you wanted. It was a shock, physically and emotionally, to comprehend the changes happening so quickly. You were thrown into a tailspin of hospitals and treatments all the while dealing with your own mortality. You found a way to deal with the changes in your body and found a way to adjust to a life in which you had so little control. Sad and frightened in the beginning you slowly found a way to fight, a way to endure, a way to accept and finally a way to let go. You rarely complained, despite the pain. You drew from an inner strength and faith I could only admire. The peace, acceptance and pure love in your eyes during your last days reassured me I could let go too.

I was a very different person before I met you. Closed off from myself and most of the world, not confident and not very happy. Our relationship changed me. I learned how to live, how to truly enjoy each day and appreciate what we shared. I grew into someone I could finally live with and for the first time, finally happy too. You brought out the best in me. When you were diagnosed with cancer it was devastating. The very thing I most feared was happening, unfolding before my eyes and there was no stopping it. I became a warrior, a caregiver, a nurse, I fought doctors and insurance companies and anyone who stood in the way of you getting better. I gave myself completely to the fight and became someone I didn't know existed inside me. I kept fighting until your eyes told me to stop.

I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

And now a year has passed. I'm not the same person I was before I met you. I'm not the same person I was before you were diagnosed. I'm not the person I was the day you died a year ago. I'm someone I didn't know existed inside me. Losing you was so hard, but the experience and the good I've gleaned from it has made me stronger and wiser. Our friends and family have carried me when I couldn't walk. Your memory and my willingness to honor it has pushed me forward when I was afraid. Strangers have found me, through this blog or through my art and left me messages of profound love and encouragment. I didn't do this alone. These connections and conversations woven with others is what sustained and taught me the most these past months. I've learned life is still worth living and joy is still possible. There are times of deep sadness, but I'm slowly healing and learning my heart is bigger than I thought. A little scarred, but bigger.

I'm finding ways to gently pack up the memories, find a place to keep them, find a way to honor and draw strength from them. They're gifts you and the life we shared have given me. I need to find a way to move forward with my own life now and I know, because we talked about it many times after you became ill, you would want me to do nothing less. You wanted me to find a way to be happy again. You brought me home, here to New Orleans, because you knew I needed a place to grow. I've felt your guidance, sensed your presence and honored your memory as best I could. Somehow, I knew I couldn't let either of us down.

You taught me a year ago how to accept, to let go, to find peace. Today I understand.

Dear sweet Ellen, I will always miss your laughter.


Pam said...

Beautiful. I will forever be sad for you and for Ellen that this was your path. And I will forever admire both of you for traveling it with such grace and strength. Ellen was a charming and delightful person... you are not alone honoring her memory. I wish you peace in your heart, and much happiness in your future. Your friend, Pam

Anonymous said...

Thank you Cathy for sharing your journey during this year after we lost Ellen. It has helped me to know that you were doing as well as anyone could of hoped after such a loss. Reading this journal felt like I was connected to you and to Ellen in a very comforting way... It was very hard when you both moved to NOLA. I had come to depend on you and Ellen while you lived here in Orlando. I know it was the right thing for you to do... The perfect thing in fact... You ARE a far different women. Ellen did change you in so many wonderful ways and you continue to change and grow. I too wish you the best... For you to find happiness again... I love you Cathy... I love you Ellen... I blow kisses to you both...


Anonymous said...

Thanks Cathy.
Much love,

danielle said...

Today, more than any other day,your words touch us to tears and teach us a lot about love, generosity and compassion

much love,

Anonymous said...

Your journey...your lessons...your words...bring up many memories. Today brings memories both sad and joyous. Thank you Cathy for sharing so freely your thoughts this past year. And thank you Ellen, for sharing your path and your will not be forgotten. Your memory lives on in my heart and in the smile on Cathy's face.

Anonymous said...

I am a complete stranger but finding and reading this blog helped me deal with the death and loss of two very special people in my life this past year. Take good care and thank you.


Anonymous said...

I only knew Ellen through your words. What a great bit of good fortune that Ellen came to be yours on this Earth, if only for a short time.

Thanks for sharing bits of you and Ellen so openly. Wishing you healing and love....

Anonymous said...

Wow! I've been looking through different books looking for some creative inspiration and your website was listed as a resource in the back of the book "Collage Discovery Workshop" by Claudine Hellmuth. So I checked out your site which led to checking out your blog. I started reading the recent posts - and, oh, my - I had to begin at the beginning of your story. And what a story - all the way from how you and Ellen met, to how you're struggling and surviving today. Your words flow with such meaning and grace. Thanks for sharing your journey.

Anonymous said...

Please post again soon and let us know how you are doing.

Heather said...

Dear Aunt Cathy, Thank you for sharing your journey through this past year. It has been difficult to read the pain in your words, but at the same time, I've been encouraged because you were able to write them down. Your endurance and healing have been a blessing and inspiration to all who've been "lucky" enough to read this blog. Ellen's life will always be remembered by those who love you. Love, Heather

Anonymous said...

Thank-you Cathy.

Anonymous said...

that was beautiful.