At shul today I was talking to a former classmate. She told me that another former classmate (someone I went to Jewish day school and a few years of public high school with) is DYING. She's apparently in 4th stage of lung cancer. I was rendered speechless. This 44-year-old woman is dying...DYING.
I was never friends-friends with this girl, but we were classmates, acquaintances, and I liked her. I have not seen her probably in 25 years, since high school graduation. She never married, never had children, and continued to live at home with her widowed mother. I think that life did not treat her the way she'd have liked to be treated, although she was cute and perky and spunky and very lively and fun.
I know where this girl/woman lives, and actually for so many years when I passed her home, I always just felt like knocking on the door and saying hi just out of the blue. But I never did. There'd have been a greater chance a few years ago, when my mother-in-law happened to befriend a woman in Florida who was this girl's mother. That would have been the perfect opportunity to check in with the girl after so many years and just catch up.
Last year I ran into a friend of that girl whom she grew up with and I said to please give her warm regards from me, that I think of her from time to time.
Now, I really feel the need to see her, to say hello (and unfortunately also maybe a goodbye), to give her a hug. It is so weird, so very akward for me... I never really had anything doing with this girl aside from just a friendliness and school history, and I want to seek her out before it's really too late to do so. It isn't about appeasing me and my conscience, though. I just have felt a curiousity about her all these years, what she's done with herself, see who she's in touch with still, to reminisce about teachers and classmates...
I have another classmate, Sharon Nechama, whom I went through Jewish day school with, and she left after grade 9 for public high school. We ran into one another 2 or 3 times throughout the years and caught up on our lives for a few minutes, but that stopped: that classmate died at the age of 27 in a car accident. I found out where she is buried and every year or two I make it a point to visit her kever. You don't necessarily have to be friends with a person to feel a strong compassion; there is just some common history, some childhood kind of bonding that serves as a basis for memory.
I will G-d willing find a way to visit this other classmate while she is still among the living. I hope that she is willing and able to still see visitors. I don't know what nechama (comfort) I can give her at this point in her life, but I can tell her how I always liked her, how she helped build up my self-esteem at an impressionable time in my life and I've always remembered her for that goodness.
Miriam/Marilyn, I hope that Hashem is watching over you and blesses you...
Update -- Sunday afternoon:
I did call my classmate around noon today; I just took the bull by the horns, looked up the number, reached her mother, who gave me my classmate's private number.
I was bothered all day yesterday, and all night yesterday after hearing the news. I couldn't sleep well at all, and between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. I was on the computer looking up the definition and symptoms of 4th stage lung cancer. I needed to know what this woman was going through.
To make a long story short, she was so pleased I called her, I was pleased I called her and got to speak to her. I think we will get in touch from time to time via e-mail, and if she wants visitors, I will make it a point to go and see her. In the meantime, I wish her strength and the ability to have many pain-free days...