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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Silver Linings

It's Thursday.  The sky outside is unbelievable, a perfect day in Huntington Beach.  November is always the most gorgeous month we locals all agree.  

Yesterday marked four years since my best friend died.  

Saturday marks four years since my Dad died.  

Seems pretty depressing, right?  Yes...and no.  

Monday night after class, some of us stopped at O'hara's for a drink.  We've got a cool professor who not only suggests we do this with relative frequency, he also joins.  Anyway, a few of us started talking about writing non-fiction and how often students write about death and its overwhelming sadness.  I won't argue that death is overwhelmingly sad, there's no question.  But sometimes, certain things about death, or rather things that happen before, during and after, can be funny.  

Lest you think I'm heartless, read on.  

Once some time has passed, once you get some distance and the pain isn't so intense, you can start to see the funny things, maybe a hint of a silver lining.  

If you were close to someone who died, you watched them battle, say for instance, cancer (which is what I witnessed first hand), there had to be moments when you shared laughter.  Because laughter is the one thing that can lighten the mood.  Laughter ACTUALLY has magical powers to help ease pain...I read that some place, don't quote me but I'm pretty sure it's a scientific fact.  Google it.

Here's a little story about Susie, who incidentally was the funniest person I ever knew.  

It goes like this.  

About three months before she passed, she was spending yet another night at Hoag Hospital.  I live about five miles away so I took every opportunity I had to visit.  One night I got there about 8:30-9:00. Regular visiting hours change for people who have been told they should "get their affairs in order."  

Susie's husband was sitting at her bedside reading while she dozed.  I wave at him, smile and lean in toward her hugging her shoulders, careful not to pull on the tubes sticking out of her body, "Suz, Hi, I'm here."

"Oh Hey Darc,"  she says groggily, a good dose of morphine moving through her little body.

"Hi Rod," we exchange hugs, her husband and me, then I hug Suz again.  He says he is gonna run downstairs, leave us for a bit so he can get something to eat.  We say sure, go ahead.  We need to catch up.

I sit on the bed next to her.  At this point, the sad stuff is shared.  They've told her there is nothing else they can do, the cancer has spread, she needs to "get her affairs in order," which is just the kind of bullshit they say to cover themselves, we both agree.  

"Can you believe this shit?" She says.

"No, I can't," and for the first time in a long time, I completely lose it, ugly tears.  And get this, as I sat there crying, laying next to her in the bed, SHE comforts me. SHE rubs my head, tells me it's gonna be okay.  Some friend I am.  Sheesh.

I stop my blubbering, pull myself together, apologize and do my best to be strong.  

Okay, about now you are thinking you've lost it Darcy, exactly what's funny about that?  Well, nothing. But the funny part comes next, promise.  I had to set the tone.

Suz tells me she wants some Oreos and a Dr. Pepper.  So with a little maneuvering of the IV stand, an adjustment of her gown, we head down the hallway in search of a vending machine. We get stopped by a young timid nurse, asking us where we were going.  

"I'm just looking for some Oreos and a Dr. Pepper. Where are the vending machines?" Suz said.

"Oh Ma'am, I'm sorry but you can't leave this floor.  The vending machines are on the 7th and patients are not allowed up there," said Baby Nurse.

"Well,  I have just been told I am going to die.  Has someone ever said that to you? No? So then, I will do whatever I damn well please.  When someone tells you you're gonna die, like they told me today, well I'm gonna get some god damned Oreos and Dr. Pepper and there isn't one fucking thing you are gonna do about it!"  She continued toward the elevator, smiling, pleased with herself knowing that she could still scare the crap out of just about anyone who crossed her.  

I stood there laughing, not sure if I was going to get in trouble, not caring either way, realizing that I would probably be the only person who could wrangle her back into her bed, convince her that the Dr. Pepper and Oreos could wait.  Truth is, I really didn't want her to go back to bed.  I wanted to be daring and crazy, even if it was just sneaking up to a different floor in search of cookies and soda.  It felt like we were kids again, sneaking out on a Saturday night to crash some senior party.   

Baby Nurse, stunned and helpless searched for Nurse Ratchet who found us very near the elevator.  We almost made it.

Suz cussed her out too and I believe it was right about then that her husband popped out from the elevator in time to see it all shake down.  There we stood, me holding my purse giggling uncontrollably, Susie in her gown, little blue socks with the sticky stuff on the bottom, holding her IV stand and the two nurses, confused and utterly embarrassed because between the two of them, they couldn't manage to get one sick woman back to her hospital room.  They had no idea who they were up against.

"What the hell is going on here?" he says.

"Oh hey baby, I just wanted a snack and these crazy bitches won't let me leave the floor," She says innocently.

Now I can't contain myself, I am just laughing out loud, acting like I am trying to get her to go back but still secretly hoping we'd make it to the 7th floor.  

"Ok, c'mon now.  Let's go back to your room.  I brought you a magazine," Roderick says, looking at me half smiling, half glaring.  

"What? What?  She wanted Oreos.  You KNOW how she is, I'm not gonna tell her no, she'd kick my ass," I say.

By then, a third nurse, one who happened to be on Suz's good side, offered her a 7Up and some Jello as an alternative.  Reluctantly, she accepted and  agreed to go back to her room.  "All of this nonsense has tuckered me out anyway,"

So, we went back to her room and all three of us laughed until we cried, recapping the whole story for Roderick.  And she WAS tuckered out.  So she sipped her 7Up, had a bite or two of jello and nodded off as her next dose of painkillers kicked in.

I left that night smiling, thinking of my little escape artist.  No matter what, we still had laughter.

Now when I look back, I still smile thinking of that story.  The bittersweet moment of knowing I was going to lose her, that our time was being cut way too short, but we were still able to laugh.  

Suz was the funniest person I ever knew, did I say that already?  Well it warrants repeating. 

She taught me to search for the beauty in life, to look for it in even the darkest places.  

She taught me about laughter and friendship and love and life.  

If anyone could ever find the silver lining, it was Suz.  

I am who I am, in many ways because of her.  

So Susie, I thank you my dear dear friend, I thank you for helping me find the silver linings everywhere. 


  1. I'm so glad I finally got to read your writing and see some of the funny stuff you were telling me about Susie the other night. Sometimes the hardest, most painful times are when we need laughter the most.

    (This is Hunter, by the way)