Two years ago today, I said good-bye to my close friend, forever.
But not really. I never felt as though I’d said an adequate farewell to Krista. The end of her life was turmoil, denial, and uncomfortable tip-toeing around heated family matters. And that was just among her family members.
My family life was equally uprooted with a new baby boy, home from the NICU and still tethered to an oxygen tank. He and I were equally tied to endless doctors’ visits. There was so much left undone from the end of an eventful pregnancy and a summer in the hospital. I was digging out of the backlog at work since returning from maternity leave and dealing with postpartum emotions and the extra complications of pumping breast milk in an open office.
I struggled to balance childcare for my two small sons, life with a medically fragile infant, and the withering away of my best companion and everyday confidant to a wretched, undignified disease.
There is still no time to grieve.
After this week’s snow storm, the power was out at school, so I had both my boys at home and hoped to squeeze in that day’s work later in the week. Raphael’s occupational therapy session and my entire schedule went awry as it usually does when big brother is around demanding attention.
The following day, Eli’s school called to say he had vomited so I picked him up just as I was about to drop his brother at the sitter’s house. Another day of work assignments would have to wait. I cannot justify paying for care for one child when I’m home with the other and not racking up billable hours. So we all stayed home again, and I turned up the TLC for the sick boy.
I typically drop into bed each night past midnight out of too much to do and a terrible habit of staying up late. Lately, just as I quiet my mind enough to drift off in the middle of the night, Raphael has been waking. His airway seems to suck shut in the dry, cold night air, and he gargles and gasps for breath until I lubricate his nose with saline and soothe him back down. Last night, Elijah woke up first, feverish and crying.
That’s why it’s after 10 p.m. on Friday, and I’m still in the office, almost enjoying the peace and quiet save for the buzzing lights and bubbling fish tank in the corner. It was Greg’s turn to stay home with Elijah today. Unlike me, my husband gets paid time off, so at least I could head down town and squeeze in my work time. And then some.
In the middle of the day, I met Krista’s sister, Holly, and Joy, one of Krista’s old friends, at the University of Colorado campus where I had first met my dear late friend in the scholarship office a dozen years ago. She and a donor had been interviewing me for a prestigious scholarship (which I ended up winning), and I had invited her and her young daughter to an ice show my fellow skating coaches and I were performing in later that week.
A few years later, we would meet again when assigned to work together on a major project at the university’s foundation. Our friendship grew easily. Krista became a trusted mentor, and we supported each other through many life changes. She was the one I called to talk about everything. She was one I relied on, as did so many others.
Krista had given so much to the university and its scholarship program and then to the CU Foundation over the years that her sister decided to place a bench on the beautiful campus with a plaque to honor her memory. I had raised funds to help support Krista before cancer claimed her life in hopes of bringing her some happiness and comfort, but it was too late. So the money we pitched in then will now go to the memorial bench.
Today, Holly, Joy, a campus landscape architect, and I walked around the snowy grounds and searched for the perfect spot for the bench. We want it to be a place that would have meant something to Krista. A place where one can contemplate nature and be with one’s thoughts. A place where one can just stop.
I need a place like that today.