This morning I an looking at a picture near my computer of the group at a Church Women's Retreat that we took in early March of 2007, and pondering the friends in it who have gone through so much in just the last year. That day there were only beautiful smiles, joy of being together in a beautiful place, headed to breakfast.
We didn't know, that day, what the days ahead held. We never do, right? And for every story that I know...there are many others I don't.
But just from my knowledge, the group members have been through the following since that photo was taken: knee surgery, death of a father, husband's possible loss of job, unexpected death of a sibling, teenager issues, stroke, severe injury/illness of spouse, adoption of a beautiful Chinese daughter, brain surgery, huge blow to career plans, and, and: Janet. She is in the back row next to me, wearing red I think, smiling over the shoulder of the girl in the green sweat suit. Janet was so happy to be with us for this retreat, having missed our last one due to helping a friend, and previous ones due to her battle with breast cancer.
She got very sick that weekend with what we thought was an upper respiratory infection. We didn't know, that day, that she had acute myeloid leukemia. The later spring of the year saw her head to the hospital and wait for, and eventually get a bone marrow transplant. It was supposed to cure her. We had prayed so much.
This day last year, I wrote that the stem cells were in! I was so sure that it was the beginning of the end of that damned cancer.
It was not. It was, as I later learned, "a smoldering case." Janet left us for the kingdom of the saints on December 10, 2007.
She is, of course, very present in so many ways in our lives...but not in the way we would most prefer. If you look in the back of the photo at the white van, you will see a mama unloading little ones: Janet's daughter and her three little boys, and Lucy was pregnant at that time with the precious little granddaughter that Janet did get to see and cuddle before she went. Her greatest joys in her life.
The Communion of Saints is very close to me. I remember in Eucharist every Sunday certain of those who have gone before me, leading the way. Today is one of the liminal spots in the year when they are so close. I am grateful to bear such memories and such love in my community. Not just from Janet, but from every person pictured. Every person I pass and greet. Every person who blesses me with their presence. You.The Mexicans celebrate this day as Dia de Muertos or "Day of the Dead." It is a festival and a remembrance.