Yesterday I saw a woman wearing a “Cancer Sucks” shirt at lunch. Not noteworthy in and of itself even in a country where English is mostly a second language. The fact that the lettering was 4 inch high and reminded me of the Van Halen tour shirt I purchased in 1991 that my wife won’t allow me to wear (as if it still fit me) because it had the initials of the album in 4 inch letters on the back. I thought of those I’ve lost to cancer and those I’m losing to the disease and went on about my day.
This morning the locked screen on my phone showed notifications that I lost one of those friends. Ginger wants me to stop cussing. The first time I typed this I used a colorful metaphor and my computer promptly restarted the webpage so this time I’ll edit myself.
Full Unlawful Carnal Knowledge Cancer—in four inch letters.
Not a good way to start any day. With heavy heart I walked downstairs to begin my normal daily routine of coffee, bible, and German lessons. It did not go the way it normally does, go figure.
In Afghanistan, almost every day started with a cup of coffee (and my bible reading) that came from my Battle Buddy, Pamela Kelly-Farley. She was Program Manager for the same half of Afgahanistan that I was Resident Engineer over. Together we solved as many of the problems of our mission that were humanly possible. Plus a few. Our nicknames were Thunder and Lightning. Everyone saw the bottle-blonde with big boobs, Lightning, and everyone heard the loudmouth SOB who has been told he needs to talk less since first grade, Thunder, Me.
Once I returned to the “welfare check” life of non-deployment Corps work we lost touch a bit. Then in Sep of 2016, two years after I left, she called. We talked a few times on messenger. Then in January her husband THE Chris Farley (OK, he’s A, but still), messaged me to tell me she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The FU of cancers. I knew what that meant. I’ve lost friends to that one before. Alex Trebek may be beating it but probably only because he makes his doctors talk in the form of a question.
We tried twice to catch up since then but the most we had was one brief 45 second chat in May. She was having her hair done. I know that made Shameless feel better and I could see her wearing a 3 carat ring in sweat pants while she did it. She had been in hospice care and I know doing something for her was what she needed but God do I ever wish I had selfishly made her stop and talk to me.
Back to this morning, I made my coffee in a cup that was the same size and make of the cup we drank from there. No surprise, I had this cup in Afghanistan but it was not the same one I drank from each morning. My cup says “Happiness is Camp Stone Afghanistan. . . in my rearview mirror.” The one I drank from was a Bagram Airfield cup. Taking a breath I opened Facebook.
The very first post I saw was an ultrasound. Of another friend from KAF. Death. Life. Double-whammy. Life is good, cancer still sucks.
After reading a few posts, and posting a few condolences I started my German lesson. The very first phrase to translate was the one on the right. I snapped a screen shot before verifying it was correct, but it was. Sie ist night zu ersetzen. She cannot be replaced.
I have to admit, it’s been a rough day. I can always think of something to say. Once I even talked and dozed off at the same time without missing so much as a prepositional phrase. Until today.
At least until now. Perhaps I’m trying to make myself get over it. Maybe I hope her family and our friends will read this and it helps them come to grip with our loss. Or maybe I just really am a loudmouth SOB screaming into the aether that is cyberspace. There is no Thunder without Lightning, but it does still echo.
On the way home I got caught in a sudden, intense rainstorm. After learning that the speed with which the convertible top goes up is inversely proportional to the intensity of the rain coming down (in other words I got soaked) I thought about Pam and my thought was that now she could be with me and I don’t even know. There is a level of mysticism and other-worldliness that I’m not trying to go into here, but I thought it. Then of course thought it would be easier if the top were down again. Not the point though.
I turned and followed a detour, then once i returned to what is my normal route home I saw a rainbow. The end of which was located in roughly the exact location of the intersection in which I had my thought. As I rounded the corner I could see the entire rainbow. From horizon to horizon. Don’t get mad I didn’t take a picture of that, I may or may not have been moving when I took the first picture.
When I first thought about what to say in this post I thought sure I’d end on the ultrasound picture. But God had a better plan. A better ending. And nothing is better than a rainbow. A promise from God.
Serendipity takes me everywhere. She always has and probably always will. Serendipity oversaw my entire day. And to me Serendipity, Coincidence, Karma, and Luck are all synonyms for Providence. Providence has always steered me. It steered me to Afghanistan and to breeze into Lightning’s life.
And until we meet again, the question remains: Cocktail or Pool? No fair rubbing it in that you have both, Pam. It only counts when we enjoy them together.