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All the Swear Words

13 Jun

Cancer is an insidious beast. It is a thief of joy, a breaker of families. It transcends, then disrespects, faith. It attacks without warning. Sometimes sneaking in on silent cat feet, other times roaring in like a crashing wave. It can hide in plain sight. It shifts and changes and grows. Destroying lives. Destroying happiness. Destroying dreams.  Like all bullies, it is a coward. Asserting dominance in the face of weakness. Resisting removal from a place it is unwanted. And just this week, it has claimed the life of yet another person I love.

What possible words could I use to describe Brenda Herrera? A few that come to mind are feisty, funny, and loyal to a fault. She was passionate about life, about her beloved children. She would tell you truth, even if it wasn’t what you wanted to hear. She mothered my children with an intensity that was second only to mine. Even as she was wasting away with illness, she goaded my growing son into eating enough. She ran the front desk of our school (with her now heartbroken partner-in-crime) with a stunning efficiency, especially given the insanity that came her way on the daily. She made me laugh with her hysterical facial expressions and exasperated muttering. She had the brightest smile, that never failed to trigger a smile in response, and a genuine love for her friends.

And she taught me all the Spanish swear words. All of them. But there still aren’t enough to describe how I am feeling right now. How could a light of life like Brenda be gone?

One time a parent who was angry with me for some misperceived slight came to the front desk talking smack about me. I heard that Brenda stood up and gave him one of her patented: “Excuse me?” Can’t you just see her? Finger pointed up, head bobbing and swaying side to side, about to wildcat across the desk and tear that man apart for talking bad about one of her friends? She was a Mama Bear to us all, and I would have always chosen her first to be on my side in a darkened alley. Brenda took care of business. And I would have been proud to hold her hoops any day of the week.

So what does that leave us with? Once again cancer has broken my heart. The blessing, of course, is that Brenda is no longer suffering. She’ll be kicking butt in Heaven now. I hope one day to join her there for two-for-one cocktails and some good music (surely there is a bar in Heaven?) But we are suffering. And will be for some time. Nothing will replace our feisty, hysterical friend. We will miss you, Brenda, to the end of days. Rest up, sweetheart, because the party starts again when we join you…

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim