photo by Waverly


We had just moved to Saskatchewan and lived in a prairie bungalow. Wes came home from work one day and said I should come meet Helen.  He was dirty and dusty from constructing in the dairy barn.  He had met her at work while he was building a porch/deck for their family on the farm.  We chatted over dinner about his day and I learned a bit more.

Helen had just relocated to Saskatchewan from BC. Just like me.

She and her husband had a couple of kids. Her life was changing diapers and monitoring Barney on TV.  She had married into a large dutch family that had migrated to the prairies.  Wes thought we might hit it off and so he encouraged me to take a drive to visit “him” and introduce myself to her.

I loved to get out of the house so off to the jobsite I went to say hello, 3 kids buckeled safely in the ford windstar.  I think I surprised her with my forthcoming, “Hello, I’m Wanda, nice to meet you,” at the door.  But Helen, the ever gracious invited me in. Friendship began.  Coffee was poured.

It always seemed she lived at least an hour away from me but our circles were dutch and christian, so without too much effort we got to know each other in Saskatchewan.

When I heard from a friend that she had gotten cancer I didn’t quite believe it and really never thought that it would be effective.  I mean she was always so beautiful physically.  Really, Honestly.  She looked fantastic.  Her complexion was worthy of model envy.

Then one day in Walmart at the check out I look over and there she is with her 3 girls.  She had moved back to BC, like me, but not to the exact same area.  We were still living an hour apart.  We greeted with a hug, shared some laughs and a promise to get together.  She was still beautiful.   She told me about her fight with cancer and the move back and how much she enjoyed being with her family.

*      *      *     *

Yesterday, Wes saw Her at work again.  This time he advised me not to go visit her.  This time he had to provide hospice care to a dying woman and attempt to offer social support to a grieving family.  Much, much different circumstances than over 10 years ago.  He came home with a very heavy heart and a long tired face full of unwanted knowledge.

It’s not fair to see a friend with so much life suffer the pains of cancer.

I. Hate. Cancer.

And though I didn’t know her really well:  I couldn’t tell you whether she was a Tim Hortons or Starbucks lover, or what her shoe size was,  I still connected with her.  She was living and fighting against my biggest fear.  The threat of dying a young mom’s life.

Grief.  Sadness.  Condolences.  Tears, they wash down my cheek in the lounge while I read about psychology research methods.  The news of her passing away fills me and pushes aside the temporal.

Fight the finality but come it will.  She is in heaven now and the people who love her wave her goodbye and treasure their memories.  Of all the profound things, mostly I can say is “this is so sad.”

So sad.

“There is a time for everything

and a season for every activity…

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance.”