Saturday, October 6, 2007
My friend Pat
This morning I've been thinking about my friend Pat. A couple of years ago, she died of lung cancer. And I miss her.
Pat was a member of a book group I've been a part of for the last 8 years. She was the ultimate hostess and nurturer, always wanting to have us meet at her house for our annual "holiday" gala where she would treat us to a splendid table of food all decorated in the spirit of the season. We have a tradition of exchanging small gifts for the season, and Pat's were usually homeade. There would be baskets full of "goodies" she made, or mittens she had sewn, or flannel vests she had designed...with special attention to the uniqueness of each of us.
Pat was also an amazing listener. What I will always remember about her is that she would be listening intently as I was talking about something important to me. When I took a moment to pause, she'd say, "Tell me more about that." Always drawing you in and digging deeper into your essence.
This particular skill of Pat's was put to great use in her professional life as well. She was a psychiatric nurse who, when I met her, was the Director of the adolescent in-patient unit at a local hospital. She LOVED the kids, but struggled with the bureacracy at the hospital. A couple of years before she died, she left the job. She didn't know what was next, just knew she needed to make a change. One of her many pieces of wisdom that I hold dear to this day is something she said at that time: "The best retirement plan is finding work that you love." And she found her love, she was offered an amazing fellowship to work on her PhD. The woman was positively brilliant, and flourished in the challenge of digging in and learning all there was to know in her field.
Our book group has a tradition of going away together someplace "up north" for a weekend retreat in the fall. It was at the last retreat Pat attended that the picture above was taken. I just love that one of our members captured Pat in howls of laughter. She did that often, but not that much on that particular weekend. She was struggling with the cancer by then and in retrospect, I can see that she knew this would be her last retreat with us.
As we were loading cars to get ready to return home at the end of the weekend, an eagle was flying overhead. We all stoppped and watched for awhile. Pat was crying, but was captured by the beauty of it all. Six months later, she was gone.
Since then, we have gone on two retreats. Both times, we have been visited by an eagle flying overhead. And we know that Pat has stopped by to say hello.
This one's for you Pat: