Dixie Peach: Only Hope

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Only Hope

I'd like to thank y'all for the cheering up y'all gave me yesterday. It's hard to feel alone and unloved when others around the world are so eager to pop in with happy thoughts and comforting words.

And as bad as my week has been it was nothing. It was a whole lot of feeling tired and irritated and annoyed and today it's gone. All of my self-pity has gone out of the window because I've been reminded of how lovely life really can be if you just let it be and tonight I'm remembering someone who helped teach me that lesson.

My sweet friend Paula has passed. A good woman who was the embodiment of strength, love and loyalty is gone. A woman who insisted that we only be hopeful, never negative.

Poppy is the one who called me and broke the news to me. I know she didn't want to do it but that's what friends do for each other - they do what they can to soften what they know will be a blow to you. It was hard news to give and hard news to take and both of us loved Paula and knew what she'd been enduring for months now.

Poppy and I talked for a while about how hard it is to lose someone you care about, especially when it's someone who had so much to give to others and someone who had worked so hard to survive. It's hard to know that there's a man who's lost his loving wife and two kids who have lost their beloved mother. And it's hard for those of us who counted Paula as one of our friends.

After a while Poppy and I started talking about life in general and as is true to form with us it evolved to us telling one another hilarious stories. Stories we already know and new ones as well and we laughed and laughed. Silly, wheezy laughs. Poppy and I both can be incredible chatterboxes and when talking we tend to do it fast and furious, stepping over each other and not even noticing because we listen as fast as we talk. God, it felt good to laugh. We both have had lousy weeks and we needed the levity.

After many minutes passed Poppy mentioned that it seemed a bit weird to call to deliver bad news and end up laughing and running out mouths like sewing machines but that it was still the right thing to do. If those who didn't know us heard us they might think it was bad form. We might even think it was bad form. But Paula was all about enjoying life. Paula was all about loving your friends and she was all about having a good time with them and laughing. I know Paula was with us both and she was laughing along. I know that like I know my own name.

Paula lost her battle with cancer and yet it sounds so wrong to say that. I hate to think that the last thing that Paula did was lose at anything. Maybe her body lost the battle but Paula was more than her body. She certainly was more than the cancer that took her life. Paula was warm and loving and so filled with hope and optimism. When the doctors would tell her that her body was failing she'd say to us "Oh what do they know? I don't feel like I'm dying. Shouldn't I feel like I'm dying if I were?". She'd do what ever she felt she needed to do to keep going. To feel better even if it wouldn't save her. She fought on and every day she kept up hope. Even when she enlisted the help of hospice she didn't do it because she felt defeated. She did it so she could keep control for as long as possible. Paula did it because she wanted to be the one who would call the shots - not cancer.

Perhaps you'll remember that I knitted a pair of socks for Paula a couple months ago. I'd emailed her and asked her if she'd like me to knit her a pair and she was so tickled that I wanted to do it. It seems that she'd always wanted a pair of my socks and was too shy to ask. I knit her a pair of cotton/wool blend socks that were so soft and pretty and had striped in it that reminded me of the color of hydrangeas. I knit them extra fine and when I tallied up how many stitches I'd made the number was over 35,000 stitches. When I sent the socks to her I told her that every single stitch contained hope and prayers and love. I thought of her every minute I knit those socks. I didn't give a damn if she ever wore them - I wanted her to have them as a reminder of how loved she really was and always would be.

About a week after I mailed her the socks she told me she received them and asked her son to help her put them on. She told me how they fit so beautifully and how pretty she thought they were and how they soothed her sore feet. It was the most lovely compliment I think I've ever received and it meant the world to me. To give Paula back an ounce of the happiness and love she's shown me was so important to me.

Paula was strong. She lived her life with grace and dignity. She loved her husband and children unendingly. She was hopeful and determined and loving. She was brave and strong and unselfish. She was taught me what it means to hope, what it means to keep the negative things at bay and how to take charge of one's life. Paula never wanted people to pity her or treat her differently because she had cancer. She was straightforward and amazingly forthright with her thoughts and intentions and didn't suffer fools kindly. Paula was joy and love and I will never forget the incredible example she set.

Paula told me not too long ago that when she felt stronger she wanted to clear out an area on her property and make a park. There was a big tree out there for shade and it was peaceful and pretty there and I told her that if she finished that park I'd love to come see it and we'd have a party. Paula never got the chance to take her beloved John Deere tractor out to finish clearing the land and make her park and that makes me sad. And yet I know that Paula has returned to whom has created us all and when I get where she is that park will be there. And that's where we'll sit with others that we both know and love and we'll feel whole.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm crying all over again, Dix. You eulogized Paula just perfectly.

Such a hard day, but I'm glad I was able to go through it with you and PKB. Love you. Love PKB. Love Paula. And that's what it's all about, even in the midst of loss.

Wish I could hug your neck right now.

3:52 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

Oh Dixie.

hen my mom died of cancer, everyone was so sweet, saying things like "I'm sorry for your loss" and "Your mother was an amazing person" and all those truly NICE and THOUGHTFUL things. And they were. But the comment that felt the most perfect for the situation was when my friend said, "Ya know that just totally SUCKS!!" Because it really totally does.

I'm so sorry and I wish I could make it better for you and those who loved Paula.


4:27 AM  
Blogger BarefootCajun said...

I miss her so very much already. But I'm so thankful we all have each other as support.

Dix, what you wrote was beautiful. Thank you.

Love to you, love to Poppy, and love to PKB.

4:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the comment Paula posted about clearing the space for the park and how tickled she was about her John Deere tractor. I remember her saying how she thought others might think she was kinda funny for being so in love with her green John Deere, but she didn't care.

See there, I only had that lightest and briefest of touches of her in my life and yet reading your post made me miss her too. Clearly she was extraordinary.

I am so wrenchingly sorry that she's gone, that you've lost a friend. I'm sorry for her family. I'm sorry for everyone who ever was or ever would have been touched by her.

It makes my gut clench up and my hands shake because I have a friend who is now battling cancer. She's had enough scans and doctor visits to know that her cancer is so widespread she will never be "cured" of it. She is currently in her second round of chemo and getting prepped for radiation therapy. She also has a beautiful family... devoted, sweet husband and two adorable kids. It makes me shake with anger that someone as sweet and lovely and graceful as her has to go through all this. I know Paula was the same.

Bless Paula. Bless my friend, Jen. Bless you, Dix. Bless us all.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Hilda said...

I'm sorry to hear about Paula - I remember her.

I'll light a candle tonight.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Twango said...

Beautiful words Dixie. I have tears of sadness for us, her husband and children but tears of joy for her.

Paula is already so missed. I know she is in the midst of one heck of a party though.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Marshamlow said...

What a beautiful tribute to your friend. My heart goes out to Paula's family and friends.

2:07 PM  

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